Frontline police more exposed than ever

By Tumamao Harawira

With the increase in violence and use of firearms, some police feel more exposed and at risk of injury or even death. That's according to Police Association president Chris Cahill.

"It's the increased prevalence of firearms, and unfortunately the increased prevalence of criminals actually willing to use those firearms - so pulling the trigger."

The Frontline Skills Enhancement Course has been set up at Porirua Police College. The course will take 1200 constables with at least two years' experience, aiming to improve their tactical and operational skills.

Cahill says the police are looking at new ways to deal with the threat from criminals but also to protect civilians. "Members of the public are increasingly at threat from that. You know, dairy owners, people like that are increasingly getting confronted with these things. We had people whose vehicle had been hijacked at gunpoint in Auckland on the weekend."

And Cahill says this is a dfferent approach for Police. "Once you left the college, unless you got into a specialist area, such as CIB or youth aid, there wasn't a lot of upskilling, and increased training."

According to official statistics there has been a 46% increase in people joining gangs and National Party police spokesperson Simeon Brown says it's only getting worse. "Frontline officers have an important job, but also a very dangerous job. They go into situations that we don't want to, and put their lives on the line every day for public safety. But the reality is it's getting more dangerous."

Cahill believes that having a better relationship with Māori is essential in this instance. "More Māori officers deployed, and also in the training. Bringing in the responses that would be more appropriate, that will have a better chance of getting communication going with Māori in the first place, and this is what this course talks about."

The frontline skills enhancement course will run throughout the year.