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If you are working on the frontline of policing in New Zealand, it is unlikely you rely on statistics to tell you how much risker that environment has become over the past decade.

However, such stats do exist and they back up your experiences of increasing serious assaults and the growing prevalence of firearms used in crime – all of which presents serious risks.

The association has lobbied hard for many years for meaningful changes in firearms law. Major amendments followed the Christchurch mosque attacks, and I consider the long-term game changer in this process to be the establishment of a firearms registry. So much so that future politicians who tamper with it should know they will be negatively impacting the safety of officers and the public.

A year after the mosque attacks, Constable Matthew Hunt was shot and killed in Auckland. An immediate Police review of how staff are trained and deployed culminated in the Frontline Safety Improvement Programme, which was the “proof of concept” for the Tactical Response Model (TRM). The recently released evaluation of the TRM points to substantial progress in staff safety.

Police and staff involved in the development of this initiative deserve our congratulations for the significance, speed and success of this project – something I have not witnessed previously.

The fundamental areas of the model – training, specialist capability and risk deployment – are all identified as having made improvements to safety across the four “proof of concept” districts of Counties Manukau, Waikato, Central and Northland.

The frontline skills enhancement training was well received at the college and the delivery of this training in districts has also been met with widespread approval, measured in staff survey ratings in the high 90s across all review questions.

The introduction of Tactical Prevention Teams (TPTs) has engendered a more proactive approach to high-risk offenders and a related drop in the number of firearms incidents that PST staff have had to attend. Of note, despite concerns dog handlers would not be keen on sharing their toys, the pairing of a dog handler with an AOS member has been welcomed and greatly reduces the risk to key staff who are always at the pointy end of risky deployments.

The use of tactical intelligence to evaluate risk and ensure the right staff, with the right training and tactical options, are deployed is extremely valuable, and, when combined with the use of TPTs, is transformational for officer safety and effectiveness.

Realistically, we are in the early stages of this model and to effectively roll it out across the country will require serious government commitment.

I appreciate the TRM does not answer all concerns that members have and many prefer to put their faith in general arming. However, I see no realistic chance of this in the short to medium term and argue our efforts are better focused on lobbying for the funding required to ensure continuous and tangible improvements for frontline officers.

As we fast approach the end of the year – one of the busiest times for officers given alcohol-fuelled celebrations, increased numbers on the roads and cost of living pressures – officer safety is top of mind. Please take care of yourselves and each other, and when you do get a break, enjoy it.