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Police Commissioner Mike Bush says the squad, called the Armed Response Team, was prompted by the March 15 terror attack in Christchurch.
“The police’s mission is that New Zealand is the safest country. Following the events of March 15 in Christchurch, our operating environment has changed,” said Commissioner Bush.
The unit, which is part of the Armed Offenders Squad , will support police’s tactical capabilities on the frontline to minimise the risk of harm to the public and staff, he said on Friday.
The trial in Counties Manukau, Waikato and Canterbury will run for six months and will involve new Holden Acadia patrol SUVs.
The three districts were chosen to host the trial as they have the highest number of firearms seized, located and surrendered, and have the largest AOS groups to support the trial, he said.
“During the trial, ARTs will be focused on responding to events where a significant risk is posed to the public or staff.
“The threat level remains at medium and we are continuously reviewing our tools, training, and capabilities we use to provide policing services to ensure we remain fit for purpose.”
He said the ART's will complement the initial response to critical or high-risk incidents by being on duty at peak demand times, seven days a week.
AOS staff are normally on call 24/7, but for the trial, they will be routinely armed, equipped, mobile and ready to support our frontline with any events or incidents that require enhanced tactical capabilities.
ARTs will have access to a range of tactical options and on average they will consist of a minimum of three specialist AOS personnel.
At times they may be supported by additional staff such as specialist dog units.
“Police must ensure our people are equipped and enabled to perform their roles safely and to ensure our communities are, and feel, safe.
“They will also support the execution of pre-planned and high-risk search warrants, high-profile public events and prevention activities.”
The trial will be evaluated to see what impact, ARTs have on staff and public safety.
Summary of Police’s Armed Response Teams
Armed Response Teams will be:
• teams of a minimum of three armed, AOS trained staff with a specialist vehicle equipped with tactical options
• operating seven days a week
• focused on responding to events where significant risk is posed to the public or staff and supporting the execution of pre-planned and high-risk search warrants, high-profile public events and prevention activities