Research into tactical options in the current policing environment

Research into tactical options in the current policing environment

Date Published: 
September 2021

Below are the findings from an insights and evidence brief – Appropriate Tactical Settings – of tactical options, including research into the general arming of Police and the potential impacts of any change to tactical options.

The research was first undertaken following the death of Constable Matthew Hunt in 2020, to identify how we could best keep our people safe, while also delivering a Police service New Zealanders expect and deserve. The report was reviewed this year to ensure any new international research was considered and the findings updated accordingly. It has also been independently reviewed by Justice Sector Chief Science Advisor Professor Ian Lambie, who advised it provided an accurate account of the data and literature available.

The evidence indicates that routine arming of Police could increase risks to public safety and the number of people shot, rather than improving safety of Police and the public. It is inconclusive about whether it would make our staff safer.

It was found that offenders’ firearm use against Police does not appear to be influenced by whether Police are armed or unarmed. It also found that New Zealand Police continues to rely on other tactical options to resolve events, even when the threshold for use of firearms is met.

The findings also suggest that routine arming could negatively impact the relationship between Police and some members of the public. The way we currently police and engage with the public has safety benefits for us all.

Some other jurisdictions that don’t have general arming do have specialist firearms roles in Police to support their frontline and public safety. Our new Tactical Response Model will improve frontline access to specialist capability, as well as enhanced tactical training.

The report found there are four areas where Police has the opportunity to improve our understanding:

  • The safety perception of staff – to obtain information from the frontline about factors that contribute to that perception.
  • Data capture – how Police records and collects information would benefit from a joint understanding between Police and the Police Association.
  • Tactical alerts and intelligence – improving up-to-date information for staff particularly relating to vehicles, given the high number of vehicle stops and fleeing drivers, and the fact that these account for 84 percent of firearms presentations and discharges at Police since 2019.
  • Better communication between frontline staff attending incidents and Emergency Communications Centres – to ensure good decision making for the safety of both officers and the public. 

These opportunities for improvement are all addressed as part of Police’s new Tactical Response Model. The style of policing in New Zealand is one we don’t want to lose. Our connection with our communities supports the ability of our staff to do their jobs safely, and to protect our communities.