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ARTs a casualty of lack of community consultation

The New Zealand Police Association understands the Police Commissioner’s decision to scrap the Armed Response Teams initiative, but says the move leaves some vital questions unanswered.

Association President Chris Cahill says it is disappointing that the positives of the ARTs, which aimed to improve the safety of communities facing increasing gun crime, and the safety of police officers responding to such crime, are lost.

"The initiative was hobbled from the start because of a lack of consultation on the concept of ARTs, and no clear communication on the aim of the trials. The concept was to provide safer and wider tactical options to deploy to our most at-risk communities," Mr Cahill says.

"If you don’t build solid foundations on issues as potentially volatile as armed police, you can’t possibly hope to take the community with you, and that is exactly what has happened in this case.

"What was unveiled to New Zealanders were vehicles that looked pretty sinister in comparison to the police vehicles we are familiar with, despite the fact that those everyday police patrol cars have Glock pistols and Bushmaster rifles in them for officers to use when needed."

The association says the decision to trial the ARTs was based on the previous commissioner’s belief that fully prepped armed responders were appropriate, particularly in areas of high gun crime such as the three trial districts of Counties Manukau, Waikato and Canterbury.

"Our members were supportive of the concept based on safety factors where highly qualified and experienced officers were able to deploy quickly and efficiently to critical incidents, as well as support frontline officers" Mr Cahill said.

"What hasn’t changed with Commissioner Coster’s decision is that the communities the ARTs were deployed to are still at risk, and we want to know as soon as possible Police plans for addressing this.

"I also ask those who have argued passionately against ARTs to now work equally as passionately with police to expose and reject the proliferation of illegal firearms in the communities most at risk."

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