There are 17 Armed Offenders Squads (AOSs), made up of nearly 300 part-time members, covering all the country’s main centres. These squads were first established in 1964 after the fatal shooting of four police officers in incidents in Lower Hutt and Waitakere.
Police is essentially an unarmed service and there is determination both within Police and in the public to keep it that way. But the AOSs provide Police with the means of effectively and more safely responding to and resolving situations involving an actual or threatened use of firearms against members of the public or Police.
The basic methods of operating are to cordon, contain and appeal to armed offenders. These tactics are successful in the vast majority of incidents, which are resolved without the use of force. AOSs are also used for some pre-planned operations where there is a high risk, for example large cash escorts or helping other Police with search warrants.
AOS members are all volunteers. They must qualify at a rigorous national selection and induction course and receive regular additional training in their districts. They are part-time, drawn from all branches of Police and operate on a call out basis.
The squads are supported by negotiation teams and specially trained police dogs and handlers.