Chinese police must rethink gun-carrying policy

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Global Times, January 11, 2011
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The site of shootout in Tai'an city, east China's Shandong Province on January 4, 2011.

The city of Tai'an Monday mourned four heroes, including three policemen and one auxiliary officer, who died after a surprise attack during an investigation and the chasing of two murder suspects.

In a country where guns are strictly forbidden, it is rare for criminals to blatantly open fire at the police during a killing spree.

What is bothering the public is the fact that none of the police officers involved carried a gun, and the one who bravely brought the suspects' car to a stop and got killed was a traffic officer.

Cheng Renhua, an official from the Ministry of Public Security, said yesterday that procedurally speaking, the officers were right to visit the home of the suspect's relative during their investigation without carrying guns. And there are strict regulations on when and in what circumstance an officer could carry a gun.

But if the police cannot be well equipped or trained to get themselves out of harm's way, how can the public expect them to protect civilians?

Police authorities need to rethink their handling of criminal cases and firearm policies.

The tragedy in Tai'an exposed a number of problems. For instance, the police officers were not told beforehand that the owner of the home they were visiting was not just a relative of a murder suspect, but the murder suspect himself.

We know it is for public good that strict rules exist for guns to avoid any abuse of firearms, accidental injuries to the public or the risk of being stolen for illegal use. But we also hope the police are well equipped so as to protect the public and themselves when the time comes.

Chinese police do have guns. But most of the time the guns are kept in safe boxes - the officers only take them out when they are sure the suspects are armed.

Faced with the increasingly challenging issue of public security, the police should change their mindset.

The police should not avoid carrying guns out of fear of being held responsible in accidents just because they are dangerous. The fact is, without proper protection and equipment, the police cannot properly protect the public.

The police should take the Tai'an case as a lesson, enhance training to handle criminal offenses, carry proper protection and improve their capacity to confront criminals and avoid unnecessary risk.

Law-abiding citizens do not fear police guns. On the contrary, police officers carrying guns while on duty will just make the public feel safer.

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