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Last Gunshot Death: Small Police, Big Guns

Taranaki police fatal shooting: Police charged with insensitivity to Kaoss Price’s death

A lawyer representing the whānau of a Taranaki man shot dead by police said police statements about the incident were insensitive.

Kaoss Price was shot after crashing into a police cruiser on State Highway 3 between New Plymouth and Waitara on Saturday night.

The 22-year-old man was not carrying a firearm.

Kaoss Price generates very little sympathy.

He committed violent acts built on a violent upbringing of his damaged life.

If he attempted to hijack another vehicle to continue ramming into police or bystanders, most will see this as justification by the police to shoot.

But the simple truth is that we don’t know what happened here.

TDB recommends NewzEngine.com

Was he shot twice?

Was he trying to run away?

What real threat did he pose?

These are key details that the police did not disclose.

They allow his character assassination in the public mind to justify their actions as opposed to an actual timeline of what happened.

Whenever state actions result in the death of a person, those actions must be reviewed and justified at the highest level.

RNZ gave a withered exposé on New Zealand Police’s trigger-happy glee when it comes to shooting Kiwis. New Zealand police are shooting New Zealanders at 11 times the rate of Welsh or English police.

One of the fundamental issues is that New Zealand police are poorly trained in firearms and critics complain of a gung ho culture – why aren’t the police defusing events and would she not rather open fire?

Nearly 25% of those killed by gunshots had mental health issues, which alone surely requires some reflection on the part of the police?

10 of those 39 killed were shot in the back by the police, doesn’t that require reflection?

In 25 of the 35 cases, the person killed had not injured anyone before being shot. In eight cases, they had damaged property. In 17 shootings, the person killed had done no damage. Where is the moral justification for opening fire in situations where there is no real threat or damage?

In 20% of cases investigated by the IPCA, they found that police actions escalated events and placed officers in positions where shooting was the only option – surely a percentage that large – 20% require a change of culture within the police?

I argued recently that one of the reasons for the sudden rise in the number of children being pepper sprayed by the police is that the height requirements for being a police officer have been relaxed to allow more minorities to become police officers and the inadvertent conclusion of this decision was that the police depended more on weapons to assert their dominance.

Combine that with lax gun training and we have a police force made up of people who are too dependent on guns to assert control.

It is not acceptable to have such an indifferent social policy, no matter who dies.

Kaoss Price was a human being. Beyond the many reasons we can cite for saying that he deserves little sympathy, he was one of us and deserved a response to his actions commensurate with the threat he posed.

If we lose sight of that in the emotional backlash of him as a character deserving of our sympathy, we’ve lost more than him.

We are all waiting for the review and trust the system to be honest here.

A human life has been lost. Social policy in a liberal progressive democracy ruled by law must ask why and how to avoid it in the future without putting other lives at risk.

If justice really matters to you, let’s wait until the process has had a chance to transparently explain the timeline.

So let’s all say.

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