Record number of attacks on police with firearms

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Four officers were shot and injured in 21 firearms incidents in 2021. File photo
Photo: 123RF

Police were attacked 21 times by someone wielding a firearm in 2021, the most ever in a single year.

Despite the increased number of shootings targeting the police, the number of perpetrators shot by the police remained stable.

Data obtained under the Civil Service Act shows that in 2021 the police shot seven people, shot six and missed one.

Those numbers are much the same as previous years, but come as offenders show a greater willingness to fire at the police.

Between 2015 and 2020, police officers were shot about once a month – between 11 and 13 times a year.

That rose to 21 in 2021, with four officers being shot and injured. Three of those officers were shot dead in an incident in Glen Eden last November, after which the assailant was shot dead by police.

Chris Cahill, the president of the police association, said the numbers match what he’s hearing from the front lines.

“Unfortunately, certainly the increase in the risk of firearms for officers is quite obvious,” he said.

“I think the public has seen that almost every day.

“In saying that, the police are still maintaining a very professional approach to firearms response, which is why you don’t see an increase in police use of firearms, which is the last resort.”

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Cahill said police were not comfortable with the increased risk of firearms.

But he said they are now better equipped for the realities of frontline policing, thanks to the Frontline Safety Improvement Program launched in 2021.

“Police have determined that the increased risk of firearms necessitated a different response, so they changed the tactical response model.

“They’ve also changed the training for frontline officers, and that’s about containing, having a plan before you go to an event that may or may not have a firearms offender.

“That is clearly paying off now that the police have to use firearms less often. We are happy about that because nobody wants the police to have to shoot someone.”

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The figures do suggest that under the new tactical response model, officers are more likely to arm themselves, even when not using the firearms.

In 2017, the police presented a firearm 247 times to an offender – on average just over 20 per month – who shot at eight people.

Figures from last year have not been provided by the police. They say that’s because the Tactical Options 2021 report is being quality checked and analyzed.

However, in the six months to June 30 of this year, there were 391 gun presentations by the police – an average of 65 presentations per month – in which four people were shot.