Police and government chiefs insist that the permanent deployment of 200 officers with armed criminal squad skills in specialized units will not lead to routine police arming in stealth.
The new $ 45 million Tactical Response Model announced today includes aligned teams of 200 employees with high-level tactical skills and further training for other front-line officers to help them handle high-risk situations.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said law-abiding New Zealanders would not notice any difference in the way the police operate.
The new model was completely different from the controversial Armed Response Teams, which were scrapped last April after a trial in Manukau, Waikato and Canterbury counties, he said.
“Armed response teams were routinely armed and in their downtime patrolling the communities.
“This model is about equipping our people with a basic level of training, our entire front line, and having specialized first responders available to be called upon when needed.
“They will not be routinely armed, and the duties these people do are more appropriate to the skills they have.”
There are currently just under 100 police officers with advanced tactical training.
An additional 78 police personnel and 28 intelligence analysts would be needed, but Coster was confident that the police could recruit them.
Acting Sergeant Roz Humphrey of Palmerston North said her training in March made her a better leader and more risk-conscious.
“Every day we are faced with risky situations and it has made me open my eyes a little more and realize that I really want to go home at the end of the day, and taking the course has made me feel a little more secure just by doing my job.”
Wellington Sgt. Megan Diamond said the week-long training had completely changed her mindset toward risk assessment after 11 years on the job.
She was eager to have more trained reinforcements on the roster.
“We had a job last week and the AOS (Armed Criminal Squad) came to that. And there is a delay because they are on duty. So to have this announcement today of that additional capacity is very reassuring.”
Police Minister Poto Williams said New Zealanders trust the police and the government wanted to make sure they were as safe as possible doing their job.
“For me, the concerns have always been: do they have the resources they need and are they sufficiently trained? This goes a long way in addressing those concerns without having to arm our overall staff.”
However, some officers said they would not feel safe until they had a gun permanently on their hip.
One in four general duty officers was threatened with a firearm last year, according to a 6,000-member Policing Association survey released last month.
About 73 percent supported general police weaponry, the highest level in a decade.
Police Association Chief Chris Cahill said there were “a lot of good things” in the new Tactical Response Model, including better training, more availability of personnel with Armed Offender Squad skills, and dual-crew dog teams. , which were often at the “tip” end of surveillance.
“You have to be realistic, there is no political appetite for general weaponry, so this is better than nothing, in fact there are many good things.
“So let’s see how it works. Maybe the environment will change and there will be no need for general assembly, but we will have to see.”
Coster said police had received good feedback from those who had already taken the training, and he believed those on the front lines would welcome this day.
“Yes, there are some of our people who would like to be armed in general. We have looked at it very carefully and came to the conclusion that we are safer and the community is safer if we are unarmed.”
After a four-week consultation with police personnel, iwi, and the wider community, the police plan to test the model in different districts before its nationwide rollout.