New Police Commissioner rules out Armed Response Teams

The Police trial using Armed response Teams was controversial.  The new Police Commissioner Andrew Coster has announced ARTs “will not be part of the New Zealand policing model in the future”.

NZ Herald (4 March 2020) – Police’s new Armed Response Teams deployed 75 a day

The new Armed Response Teams have been called out at 50 times the rate that Armed Offenders Squads were last year.

The teams were deployed 75 times a day in the first five weeks of a six-month trial that started late October, data released under the Official Information Act shows.

Police say the trial is going “really well”, the public is getting “good value”, and the teams have not fired a gun once.

“It sounds very much, given that volume, that they’re involved in day-to-day policing,” private investigator and former police officer Tim McKinnel said.

“I think a large number of them are going to be routine traffic stops… but we were told by the Commissioner [Mike Bush] when he launched them that they were to focus on high-risk armed situations, high profile public events.”

Even police admit the teams – which carry a pistol and have a Bushmaster rifle in the car – are dealing with some low-level crimes they come across.

Victoria University Professor of Criminology Simon Mackenzie said having roving officers with guns day-to-day, for no specific reason, would meet many people’s definition of routine arming.

Mackenzie said for police to say they were opposed to routine arming but then routinely arm some patrolling officers was “Trumpian newspeak”.

“So, of course, they’re going to be asked to respond to other calls and engage with any emerging events that happen nearby. The problem is that then brings police with guns into normal day-to-day business, policing in the community.

“That is not a good development, that is not what the trial is supposed to be about, as far as I understand it.”

RNZ (24 April 2020): Police Armed Response Teams trial to end on Sunday

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said in a statement that the trial, which ends on Sunday, was about having specialist police personnel immediately ready to deploy to critical or high-risk incidents.

He said police know some communities have had concerns about the teams and how they were being deployed.

The Evidence-Based Policing Centre will undertake an evaluation expected to be complete in June, which will take into account data collected during the trial, public feedback and the views of the teams involved.

“An evaluation will only be one aspect of the review into ARTs. We will also consult with community groups and talk to our people and the teams involved with the ARTs,” Coster said.

Figures previously obtained by RNZ under the Official Information Act show armed response teams were deployed 2641 times between the 28 October and the 2 December in Counties Manukau, Waikato, and Canterbury districts.

This meant armed police have been attending more jobs in an average week than the Armed Offenders Squads were sent to in an entire year.

Last month, Māori justice advocates sought an urgent Tribunal hearing on the police armed response teams and called for them to be stopped immediately.

The application from the claimants, Sir Kim Workman and Julia Whaipooti, said the Crown had breached Te Tiriti o Waitangi by failing to work in partnership with, consult, or even inform Māori about the trial.

survey on New Zealand police’s armed response teams has found 85 percent of participants do not support the trial.

Justice reform advocate Laura O’Connell Rapira said 91 percent of people surveyed were less likely to call the police in family violence situations if they knew the police had guns.

NZ Herald (29 May 2020) – Armed Response Teams trial: Police warned not consulting Māori could have ‘severe’ consequence

New Zealand Police were warned before and during their controversial Armed Response Teams (ART) trial about the “severe” consequences of not having consulted with Māori.

The revelations are contained in a trove of documents released to the Herald under the Official Information Act, which also provide warnings the trial would likely not produce enough evidence to be adequately evaluated.

Reports from early stages of the trial also show the armed officers were routinely attending low-level incidents including routine traffic stops, and police recording of data was “exceedingly poor”.

The trials, which ended in April, took place in Canterbury, Waikato and Counties Manukau – areas cited to have the highest rates of firearms incidents.

Almost immediately after the trial was announced publicly on October 18, there were outcries about a lack of community consultation, particularly from Māori, who are nearly eight times more likely than Pākehā to be on the receiving end of police force.

RNZ (5 June 2020) – Armed Response Teams trial: ‘Bizarre’ holes in callout data

Police in the Armed Response Teams failed to record their callouts properly on almost every occasion during the trial’s first two months.

Officers were expected to record and submit data on every single call-out. In the first two months, data from five out of every six callouts was missing.

Police did not provide the total rate of responses for the remainder of the trial when asked by RNZ. Instead a spokesperson said the evaluation of the trial would “only be one of the factors taken into consideration as part of our decision making”.

Documents to police, authored by the Evidence Based Policing Centre (EBPC), state that records from the End of Deployment (EOD) forms should be filled out after “each operation or call for service” and would be “essential” to understanding how the patrols had been used.

Two months into the trial, just 17 percent of forms were completed.

“There is still a level of underreporting that, while not posing an immediate problem, means that a complete picture is not available. As a fraction of the number of incidents ARTs have been deployed to, the number of EOD forms received by the EBPC is still quite low (17%),” an EBPC document from January this year said.

A report from December stated: “These discrepancies likely reflect a general under-reporting of deployment activity and selective reporting practices across each district.”

NZ Police today (9 June 2020):

Armed Response Teams will not continue

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster has today announced that Armed Response Teams (ARTs) will not be part of the New Zealand policing model in the future.

The decision not to roll-out ARTs following the six-month trial (which finished in April) has been made based on preliminary findings from the trial evaluation, feedback received from the public, and consultation with community forum groups.

“Everything we do, we do to keep New Zealanders safe and feeling safe,” says Commissioner Coster.

“New Zealand Police values our relationships with the different communities we serve, and delivers on the commitments we make to them. This means listening and responding to our communities and partnering with them to find solutions that work for both Police and our communities. I have previously said that the evaluation would only be one factor in our decision making.

“It is clear to me that these response teams do not align with the style of policing that New Zealanders expect. We have listened carefully to that feedback and I have made the decision these teams will not be a part of our policing model in the future. As part of this, I want to reiterate that I am committed to New Zealand Police remaining a generally unarmed Police service.

“How the public feels is important – we police with the consent of the public, and that is a privilege.

“For Police, the trial was about having specialist police personnel immediately ready to deploy to critical or high risk incidents, to support our frontline staff where they needed enhanced tactical capabilities.

“We can only keep New Zealanders safe if we can keep our staff safe too. That is why Police has invested in the new body armour system, we have strengthened training, and given our officers more tools and tactical options.

“Having listened to feedback from our people through the trial, we are also undertaking a programme of work looking at our broad tactical capability to ensure our critical response options remain fit for purpose. Through this work we will continue to ensure our staff are well equipped and trained to meet all eventualities.

“We will still complete the evaluation into ARTs and that will now inform the wider tactical capability work programme.

“Any options that come out of that will be consulted with our communities to ensure we take a collaborative approach to policing in our communities.”

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  1. Geoffrey Monks

     /  9th June 2020

    The NZ Police are not trained or organised to field ARTs or SWATs and should therefore leave the role to others. Many countries assign this role to a specialised Gendamerie or Armed Constabulary for whom an armed response to a high threat situation is all that they do. It is high time we addressed this need or accept the inevitable of unlawful assemblies of more than a handful as being beyond containment.

  2. artcroft

     /  9th June 2020

    Be interesting to know if the gangs have an equivalent of an armed response team. I should imagine they do.

  3. Corky

     /  9th June 2020

    ”NZ Herald (29 May 2020) – Armed Response Teams trial: Police warned not consulting Māori could have ‘severe’ consequence.”

    I can’t be bothered putting any effort into this, except to say Nash and Coster will have blood on their hands when the next police officers get gunned down. Going by criminal trends that won’t be too long into the future.

    • Duker

       /  9th June 2020

      How does a SUV with armed cops stop that?…anyway most cops are armed now, rifle in the boot and higher risk work they have a Glock in the glovebox…just they don’t have weapons on the hip.
      Give us another 5 years and it will happen.

      • Corky

         /  10th June 2020

        ”Give us another 5 years and it will happen.”

        I can agree with that. The time frame may even be less. But at what cost in the interim?

    • Gezza

       /  10th June 2020

      From the article:
      It was very upsetting and annoying to me that instead of taking specifics of the offenders as well as the offence and to try to help the victims, the officers had turned the situation into a different angle, and we were treated like the culprits.”

      Shekar wrote a letter to the Prime Minister’s office accusing police of discrimination and
      “racially oriented comments”.

      He said one of the officers told him he should have let the offenders leave and then made an insurance claim.

      “Seeing and hearing all of this I again questioned [the officer], how can you not punish or charge these offenders and why should they not be arrested?”

      This exactly the same situation that happened to one of my local Indian dairy owners when he physically detained a young, persistent shoplifter. He was flabbergasted that the attending police officer seemed of the view a certain level of crime should just be accepted & was not worth punishing or deterring.

      In a subsequent conversation he later told me of another young shoplifter who he hadn’t seen for some months & who came into his shop & this time paid for his purchases. Being a generally pleasant sort of chap he remarked on it that he hadn’t seen him for some time & was pleased he was paying for his purchases. The young guy said he’d finally been arrested & spent a few months in prison. He didn’t want to go back there. He had received counselling. Those days of nicking stuff were over. And he apologised for his previous behaviour. They chat now when he comes in.

      This is why he’s annoyed and puzzled about that police officer.

  4. Gezza

     /  10th June 2020

    It sounds like whoever set up & organised these ARTs failed in even the most basic of activity reporting systems.

    A 17% rate of reporting on callouts in the first 2 months is woeful & likely points to other police organisational deficiencies and / or insufficient resources for the police force as a whole.

    That they were not prepared or able to advise on the reporting rate for the remaining 4 months suggests to me that it was no better, & possibly even worse.

    Coster’s early intervention & cancellation of the scheme before something went badly wrong & it all crashed down in recriminations & public enquiries is probably a wise move.

    The AOS system seems to me to have worked well for several decades for serious armed offender incidents – so they still have that backstop. And police have relatively quick & easy access to arms.

    Reports of over-zealous & inconsistent policing of lockdown rules during level 2 have likely generated some broader public negativity towards the police than existed before & it’s also probably wise & timely to rethink this licence to routinely arm some police officers now those rules are currently relaxed.

    Coster’s right that policing needs to be done with the consent of the public. We can see from events in the US what can happen if police alienate themselves from the public with an authoritarian, heavy-handed, ‘us vs everybody’ approach.

    Seems to me that violent offending, thuggery, and arms-related offences, are still heavily weighted towards gang members & associates. And the gangs are growing their numbers faster than the police are. Community consultation & consent are certainly worthwhile, probably essential, but getting rid of the gangs I’d like to see getting focussed on.

    Not just this bullshit about going after high-end organised gang crime. That doesn’t deal with the ongoing intimidation & all the various manifestations of their staunchness & violence & petty crime.

    If Maori & ethnic communities don’t want police focussing on their communities – because that’s where the gangs are most active – then, imo, they need to be part of the solution by stopping making excuses for them (because they exploit whanaungatanga), actively discouraging their rangatahi from joining them (because they exploit the warrior, staunch, tuff & “cool” image attraction to teens & young men with poor alternative life prospects), & perhaps by working quietly with the police through trusted Maori & ethnic liason advisers to report on & curtail their & their associates’ unlawful or undesirable activities at community & street level.

    I think we don’t have enuf police. And they need to be based more in the communities, as they once were. They are too remote from the communities to engage with folk on a daily basis and thereby gain the respect & trust they should have.

  5. NOEL

     /  10th June 2020

    Suggests to me that they were not filing routine duties. Why? Perhaps they conducted more routine police duties than those that would be considered necessary to be armed.


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