Police call for armed patrols

[comment caption=Should some New Zealand police officers be armed?]Police want armed patrols to roam Auckland's streets 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The "armed response vehicles" would be manned by firearms specialists and provide a ready response to callouts like last week's shooting of Manurewa liquor store owner Navtej Singh.

A proposal for a six-month trial of the patrols is being recommended by a top-level police review.

The proposal will be put to Police Commissioner Howard Broad for consideration by August and, if approved, the patrols could begin in March.

Police say the trial would likely involve four cars, each manned by a pair of officers and carrying the police issue Bushmaster rifles and Glock 9mm pistols.

It would involve an official policy of routinely arming some New Zealand police officers, marking a turning point in the force's 122-year history of being generally unarmed.

Police also want the patrols to carry a medium-range less-lethal option, such as the just-developed Taser Xrep, which fires an incapacitating Taser projectile from a 12-gauge shotgun.

Police acting national operations manager Superintendent John Rivers said the armed patrol proposal was part of the Tactical Operations Deployment Review that began earlier this year.

The review's aim was "to further develop police effectiveness when responding to calls for service where weapons are involved" and Supt Rivers said the patrols would augment existing police procedure.

"If armed intervention is required they [the patrols] are placed to readily provide it," he said.

There was a "strong and obvious connection" with Mr Singh's murder, where police have been criticised for rigidly following procedure in waiting 24 minutes from the 111 call until entering the shop where he lay dying, Supt Rivers said.

He acknowledged the patrols would be controversial but said the cornerstone police response remained "cordon, contain and negotiate".

The patrols were based on the armed response vehicles used by police forces in the United Kingdom for the past 20 years.

The trial would not cover the entire city, but Supt Rivers said it would be in high-risk areas.

The patrols would likely use standard police cars, and Supt Rivers said the officers would not necessarily carry the weapons on their person, but could have them in the car.

The patrols would be on the road at peak times.

If the trial went ahead, the review team was "very, very keen" to trial mid-range non-lethal weaponry to supplement the current close-range options of the baton, pepper spray and Taser which had been trialled, Supt Rivers said.

The review was keeping a watching brief on the Taser Xrep, which uses Taser stun technology in a shotgun-type cartridge and can hit targets 20m away.

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