New Zealand Police is not moving to routine arming of its frontline staff.
You will be aware that the issue of routine carriage of firearms has been subject to a range of media commentary over the weekend.
The safety of our staff and the public will always be paramount but I do not believe routine arming is the right path for our organisation.
The current debate follows a decision by Canterbury District Commander Superintendent John Price last Thursday for level one responders in Canterbury to carry firearms during the search for a high-risk offender.
I absolutely supported his decision. Thanks to good work by Canterbury staff, that offender was located yesterday and the firearms order was immediately lifted.
We know that a local order like this happens occasionally. It is a tactical response under our TENR risk assessment and decision-making framework to a specific risk identified to staff and public safety. The order is reviewed on a shift-by-shift basis and is lifted – as in Canterbury – as soon as it is deemed no longer necessary.
Nevertheless this particular decision has prompted speculation that full arming of Police is on the agenda. I would like to be absolutely clear that this speculation is incorrect.
I’m conscious that there is a range of opinions on this, among the general public and within Police. I’ve been in Police for 41 years – most of it on the front line – and I’ve seen changes in the policing environment.
However, routine arming would fundamentally change our relationship with the New Zealand public, and it would have a significant impact on the trust and confidence which we have worked hard to build.
I believe we are in the right place in our current operating environment.
Ours is one of the most well-equipped police services in the world: giving our staff the tools they need to do their jobs is essential to our mission to be the safest country.
This is not just about firearms – we are in the process of rolling out new body armour to all our frontline staff, which is a major investment in our people’s safety. All frontline staff deploy with Tasers, a decision taken in 2015 to give them another option for keeping themselves and members of the public safe.
Meanwhile, frontline staff have greater access to firearms than ever before for the most extreme situations, with Glock pistols and Bushmaster rifles secured in their vehicles.
We are implementing a programme to give us a better understanding of the policing environment around firearms in the community. The more data we have on firearms and other risks, the more we can do to enable our people to carry out their duties safely. We are continuously enhancing firearms training for frontline staff.
We police with the consent of the public, and that is something that as a Police service we should cherish and preserve.
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