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Criminologist: Police death trend depressing

Published: 3:58PM Thursday May 07, 2009 Source: AAP

One of New Zealand's leading criminologists has declared a "depressing trend" in police deaths following the third officer killing in just 10 months.

Senior Constable Len Snee of Taradale police was shot dead in Napier on Thursday. While, Constable Bruce Miller and Constable Grant Diver are both in a serious condition in Hawke's Bay regional hospital.

"Being a cop in New Zealand is not as safe as it used to be," says University of Canterbury criminologist Associate Professor Greg Newbold.

"The numbers might still be relatively small but there seems to be more and more of them, which is quite depressing."

Two other officers died in 2008 .

Newbold says while each case was unique, an increasing number appear to be fuelled by New Zealand's gang culture and organised crime.

"Gangs or groups involved in criminal activity are becoming increasingly sophisticated over here," Newbold says.

"They're more likely to have guns and everyone knows that means they're more likely to use them."

Newbold says violence in the Auckland has turned police off applying to work there at all.

"If you want a job in Auckland, particularly in the southern suburbs, you can walk right in because police simply don't think it's safe enough to work there," the criminologist says.

Newbold says the other factor behind police shootings could be that New Zealand police are not armed.

He says the average Kiwi police officer does not carry a gun, does not regularly practice with arms and "may not be terribly good at dealing with armed situations as a result".

"Australian cops are likely to have more skill in this area, but that brings with it its own set of problems."

New Zealand introduced laws in 2002 to increase minimum sentences for police killings from 10 years to 17 years, but Newbold says this has failed to act as a deterrent.

"Cop killings are always spur of the moment so legislating to stop them hasn't worked, and to be honest, it's hard to know what will."

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