'I remember being terrified' - Former cop Jenny-May Clarkson recalls her experience using firearms

Breakfast host and former police officer Jenny-May Clarkson this morning said she was "terrified" to be asked to wield a firearm during her time on the force, and that police were not trained well enough to handle firearms at the time.

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Clarkson says the “hairs stand up on my arms” when she hears there will be more armed police on the streets. Source: Breakfast

Her comments come as police prepare to roll out new always-armed, always-mobile patrol units called armed response teams for a six-month trial in Auckland, Waikato and Canterbury.

A Police Armed Response Team vehicle. Source: Supplied

Clarkson said when she was an officer in Hamilton a decade ago, firearms were "readily available", when required.

"The hairs stand up on my arms when I hear that they're going to arm police," Ms Clarkson said.

"If I think back in my experience, I was in my 20s, I didn't know what I was doing with a gun - there wasn't enough training.

"We're going back over a decade now when I was in the police force - things may have changed.

"But I didn't have the knowledge or the experience or the training to point a weapon at someone and to understand at what point to pull the trigger.

"I remember being terrified, holding on to one - a semi-automatic, a rifle - which I had to do on a couple of occasions.

"So that scares me - it scares me that, if that is still the case for some police officers, and I'm talking general duties here, not your specifically-trained AOS members.

"Having a gun in their hand that they don't readily use in a training scenario - I was trained once in six months - that's it."

Clarkson said training police to use firearms means taking them off the street and spending time and money to get them up to proficiency.

She said that she doesn't want New Zealand to get into the same situation as the US, where "police officers are put into positions where they pull the gun".

Speaking to Breakfast, deputy commissioner John Tims says it's clear the criminal environment in New Zealand has changed. 

"If you look at some of the data we have, violence towards police, firearms in our community is greater than ever before.

"This is an opportunity to make sure our people are safe, and the community is safe."