11 Nov 2019

Police call for feedback on Armed Response Teams amid controversy

From Morning Report, 8:10 am on 11 November 2019

The police are defending using an Armed Response Team (ART) to pull over a man wanted in connection to a dishonesty crime, who was known to carry firearms.

A disgruntled bystander filmed what happened when she came across the incident in suburban Hamilton over the weekend because she was under the impression the teams were to be used in serious and risky situations.

Bianca Brown says it was shocking to see police officers with guns doing what just looked like a standard roadside stop.

"You see the videos from America, you hear the stuff from America and you can't help but sort of draw parallels when you see stuff like that."

Former police officer and National MP Chester Borrows says he fears more police carrying guns will lead to more violent confrontations with police.

"I'm a bit worried about it actually, the fact that it's out on the street actively patrolling in an intimidating way. I mean it sounds a bit like Northern Ireland during the troubles doesn't it."

Deputy police commissioner John Tims told Corin Dann he backs the ART being used during the incident over the weekend.

"Based on evidence, based on intelligence, they were in that area because there was a high area of concern for us around robberies.

"So they were absolutely right to be in that area and they came across a vehicle and did what they did."

He stressed the use of the ARTs is currently only a trial in three districts and called for the public feedback on the issue.

"We want absolute feedback from our communities about how well the pilot is going and we will listen to that feedback.

"I think the other point that's really missed is this is one vehicle, in one district, we've got three districts. So there's only one vehicle in each district, this is not the whole New Zealand police."

The ART teams are currently operating in the Canterbury, Waikato and Counties Manukau districts. Mr Tims said feedback can be provided to him directly or to the district commander in each of the pilot sites.

He isn't ruling out extending the ARTs across the country - if there's an appetite for it.

"There's two scenarios, I guess, one is that we stop or there's the potential that we could go across the 12 districts."