Experts say police need guns on patrol

Updated: 2013-08-23 00:46

By Zhou Wenting in Shanghai (China Daily)

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Two officers failed to act when girl, 17, killed in public stabbing

Police officers should be equipped with more powerful weapons and get rigorous training to counter violent offenders, experts said, after a 17-year-old girl was fatally stabbed in front of two police officers in Anhui province.

The teenage supermarket cashier was killed on Sunday afternoon in Yuhui district of Bengbu. Two police officers had just arrived at the scene when the girl was pushed to the ground by the suspect, but the officers did not immediately try to stop the attack.

The supermarket's surveillance video shows the two officers standing about 3 meters from the suspect when he began to stab the girl with a kitchen knife.

The officers didn't react for about 10 seconds while the suspect stabbed the cashier eight times.

One of the police officers then threw a carton and a plastic chair at the suspect, to no effect.

It was when the girl, surnamed Hu, has stopped struggling and the suspect stabbed himself in the abdomen twice that the other police officer squirted pepper spray at him.

The suspect, who was identified as Shen, is a native of Shangqiu, Henan province.

Family outraged

Bengbu police said in a statement posted on its official micro blog on Thursday that Shen and Hu knew each other from work, but the motive for the attack remains unknown. Shen is in a coma.

The two police officers' reaction to the attack outraged the victim's family, and some netizens asked why they didn't try to stop it.

A woman who works at the supermarket and was next to the police officers said, "I repeatedly shouted ‘Save her!' to the police officers, but they just yelled at the attacker instead of acting."

Bengbu police expressed condolences to the victim's family and promised to thoroughly investigate the case and the actions of the two officers, named Cui and Song, from Macheng police station.

Meanwhile, Anhui Public Security Department has sent a team of officials responsible for discipline, police supervision and criminal investigations to conduct its own probe.

Bengbu Public Security Bureau was unable to be reached for comment on Thursday.

The director of Yuhui district branch of Bengbu Public Security Bureau, surnamed Bao, told media previously that he believed the two police officers' reaction was "kind of slow".

Public security experts said the attack shows that the country's police officers need to be armed.

"Similar cases have shown the ineffectiveness of police power without guns when dealing with violent criminals. It's also easier to injure or kill police and people nearby," said Dai Peng, director of the criminal investigation department of the People's Public Security University of China.

Most police officers, who usually carry nightsticks, sprays and handcuffs, do not carry guns except when they are trying to apprehend certain major criminals who pose a threat to public safety, experts said.

"Other non-lethal weapons, such as some devices that can put the suspect's weapons out of action, and capturing nets, may also help," Dai said.

But advanced weaponry cannot solve problems without adequate training in their use and how to bring offenders under control.

"In this case, the police officers didn't stop the suspect at first, and they accidentally dropped equipment when trying to take him out, which showed they lacked the training and experience to handle such an incident," Dai said.

Li Yunlong, chairman of the Criminology Research Council of Jiangxi province, said, "They should have used nightsticks, which might work much better than a carton."

The video doesn't show whether the police officers had nightsticks, but Li said it would be considered dereliction of duty if they did not have nightsticks with them when dealing with the incident.

A criminal police officer from Shanghai also said the policemen's reactions were flawed.

"As seen from the surveillance video, the two policemen were capable of overpowering the suspect when he began to stab the victim. Or they could adopt a formation pattern with one policeman getting to the back of the suspect to bring him under control," said the officer, who declined to be named.

The first priority of police officers is to curb criminal behavior and protect people, he said.