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Police Commissioner Howard Broad has warned that giving more police more access to handguns carried in police cars is just one step short of a general arming of the force.
And Prime Minister John Key said it was inevitable that police access to firearms would increase, though he questioned whether it would make them safer: individual officers still had to decide whether they were going to use a gun and in which circumstances.
Mr Key said he would be cautious about the wholesale arming of police, "where every police officer in New Zealand walks round with a gun on their hip".
"I don't believe that's a step in the right direction," he said.
Mr Key's comments followed Mr Broad handing Police Minister Judith Collins a draft report on training more police to use firearms and placing more firearms in more police vehicles.
Mr Broad said police officers needed to be given better training in risk assessment, and clearer guidelines on when they should consider using different types of weaponry.
"We're going to rely on the judgement of the officers ... provide them with greater tuition about selecting the right option," he said today.
"This is the next step and, if I'm wrong, the next step after that will be a general arming of the police."
Mr Broad said the report he gave Mrs Collins said there was a need for frontline staff to have greater access to firearms - particularly the officers who encountered the most risk, such as those on patrol - and that they should be given improved training and support.
He wanted more lock-boxes in police cars for handguns.
In some cases, guns would be moved from police stations and supervisors' vehicles to patrol cars, but more than 100 new guns might have to be bought.
Assaults were also a problem in cities as attacks on police became more vicious.
Officers who might be given guns and training included not only police on patrol, but support staff such as dog handlers, road policing staff and detectives.
No decision has been made on exactly which vehicles would carry the guns in lock boxes.
"In terms of acquiring any (more) weapons, if we need them, and doing the policy work and implementing it.. it's not going to be January-February," he said.
"It will be mid next-year before we have an ability to start rolling a new programme out."
Mrs Collins said she was in favour of police having more options.
"I'm not in favour of a general arming of all police officers at this stage," she said.
Mr Broad said he was discussing with the minister "complex" issues around double-crewing - pairing up police for routine patrols - but such a change would present problems for police in rostering staff in small stations.
"I don't think the public's going to be safer if we get rid of single-person stations because of a requirement to double-crew," Mrs Collins said.
Mrs Collins said she would read the report and have further discussions with cabinet colleagues and police officials.