Thursday, 19 August 2021

Police safety

The police union regularly asks to be armed. A few years ago, I included a chapter on our unarmed constabulary in a piece arguing that New Zealand really is the Outside of the Asylum

Policing in New Zealand is, all things considered, safe – even without firearms. Auckland University of Technology criminologist John Buttle tallied the figures for 2008–09, a high point in assaults against police. He found police reported being assaulted 2,481 times that year – out of 1,221,823 incidents attended by police. In the 123 years from 1886 to 2009, 29 officers were killed by a criminal act in the line of duty.
If loss of life at work is a measure of how dangerous an occupation is, then policing comes quite far down the list of hazardous jobs. This raises the distinct possibility that it is more dangerous being a farmer than it is a police officer.
Farmers do not carry sidearms to guard against enraged livestock.
Peter Kelley points me to an excellent OIA request he made for police injuries over the past several years

Injuries include not categorised; exposure to biological factors; chemical substances; contact with cold objects; sharp objects; noise; radiation; falls from height; being hit, struck or bitten by an animal, insect or spider; rubbing and chafing... there are a lot of categories. 

The one that is most obviously something that might be avoided by being armed would be "Hit, struck or bitten by person (Assault)". But they helpfully list the proportion of assaults among the other categories as well. Unfortunately, it looks like they didn't count being spat at until 2017. And I'm not sure that that's something where an armed response makes the most sense anyway. 

It's hard to see any obvious case in here for arming police. Or at least there is no surge in injuries from assaults. Thomas Lumley put together some charts on it:

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