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Armed Response Team trial

New Zealand Police’s mission is for New Zealand to be the safest country. Following recent events, our threat environment has changed. Our staff are encountering more violent and unpredictable events, where a significant danger is posed to the public or staff.  

We must ensure our people are equipped and enabled to perform their roles safely and to ensure our communities are, and feel, safe. This means having the right people with the right tools, skills and knowledge ready to respond at all times.

To help achieve this, Police is currently conducting a trial of Armed Response Teams (ARTs) as a new way of deploying the existing armed response provided by the Armed Offenders Squad (AOS).

Police is essentially an unarmed service and there is determination both within Police and in the public to keep it that way. But the AOS provides Police with the means of effectively and more safely responding to and resolving situations that pose a high risk.

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. The AOS is 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. They must qualify at a rigorous national selection and induction course and receive regular additional training in their districts.

ARTs have access to a range of tactical options and on average they consist of a minimum of three specialist AOS personnel. At times ARTs may be supported by additional staff, such as our specialist dog units.

ARTs are being trailed in three Police districts (Counties Manukau, Waikato and Canterbury). These districts have been chosen to host the trial as they have the highest number of firearms seized, located and surrendered, and have the largest AOS groups to support the trial.

As part of the trial, Police wants to seek the public’s views on whether or not ARTs make our communities feel safer, whether they should be established across New Zealand, and if so any changes you’d like to see.

Your feedback will help shape the future of ARTs, including whether or not ARTs should be introduced permanently. Have a read of the below information on ARTs and let us know what you think.

To share your thoughts please email: haveyoursay@police.govt.nz.

Summary of Police’s Armed Response Teams

Armed Response Teams are:

  • teams of a minimum of three armed AOS members with a specialist vehicle equipped with tactical options.
  • operating seven days a week.
  • focused on responding to events where a significant risk is posed to the public or staff and supporting the execution of pre-planned and high-risk search warrants, high-profile public events and prevention activities.
  • being trailed for a period of six months in Counties Manukau, Waikato and Canterbury Police Districts.
  • being evaluated by Police’s Evidence Based Policing Centre to see whether the use of ARTs make staff and communities be, and feel, safe.

Question and Answers

1. Is there an immediate threat Police is responding to?

There is no immediate threat. However, we must recognise that the environment has changed and Police’s capability and resourcing needs to reflect this to ensure New Zealanders feel, and are, safe. We are undertaking the trial to assess whether ARTs improve Police’s ability to keep our staff and the public safe through their ability to respond to situations with specialist skills and expertise, minimising risks to the public and our people.

2. Will ARTs operate 24/7?

During the pilot ARTs will operate during peak demand times, seven days a week with AOS squads continuing to provide support outside these hours.

3. What will the ARTs look like?

ARTs will use a specialist vehicle, which has a colour scheme as our other specialist teams (e.g.: Eagle helicopter). Staff will wear standard blue operational uniform with Police’s new Body Armour System.

4. How have you measured the risk in the trial locations?

The risk has been measured through a Police programme called Gun Safe that records incidents and details when Police encounter firearms. This programme was initially trialled across Tāmaki Makaurau in late 2018 to ensure it was something every Police district could easily use. Nationwide rollout then began gradually from December 2018, with every Police district being on board by March 2019.  Counties Manukau, Waikato and Canterbury have the highest number of firearms seized, located and surrendered.

5. What is the Evidence Based Policing Centre (EBPC)?

The EBPC uses practitioner-based research, information, crime-science, theory, and problem-solving methods to inform practice, implement measures to prevent crime and improve the allocation of Police resources to better protect our staff and the public.

Tell us what you think

 NOTE: Feedback is official information

Your feedback will only be used by Police for the purpose of consideration of the impacts of Armed Response Teams.

Please note your feedback will become official information. This means Police may be required to release all or part of the information contained in your feedback in response to a request under the Official Information Act 1982.

Police may, however, withhold all or parts of your feedback if it is necessary to protect your privacy or if it has been supplied subject to an obligation of confidence. Please tell us if you do not want all or specific parts of your feedback released, and the reasons why.

Your views will be taken into account in deciding whether to withhold or release any information requested under the Official Information Act, and in deciding if, and how, to refer to your feedback in any possible subsequent paper prepared by the Police.

Next steps

The ART trial will run for a period of six months. The trial will be evaluated to see what impact, ARTs have on staff and public safety. The evaluation will be undertaken by the Evidence Based Policing Centre (EBPC). Police will keep the public informed on the findings of the Evaluation.