1 Oct 2021

Dozens of fatalities pinpointed under scenario of armed police

11:53 am on 1 October 2021

A report which informed the police on their decision to launch a new tactical model, says if officers were routinely armed 43 people would have been killed over the past 11 years.

One person in possession of a firearm has been shot by police and is in a serious condition after a chase in  Auckland this morning that ended on Lilac Grove, Hillsborough.

Armed police at the scene in Hillsborough yesterday after a man was shot by officers after a car chase across several areas of Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

The report, Appropriate Tactical Settings, was published last month, and released publicly this week.

It estimates that during 3457 incidents which reached the threshold for police firearms use during the past 11 years, general arming would have led to 92 events where police shot a suspect.

Of those, 43 people would have died.

The report was compiled by the Evidence Based Policing Centre, and was independently reviewed by the Justice sector's chief science advisor, professor Ian Lambie.

No caption

Professor Ian Lambie Photo: RNZ / Jo Moir

Professor Lambie said it provided an accurate account of the data and literature available.

The report said the police's firearms use has increased, and general arming could have had bad implications.

"As a comparison, New Zealand police Taser use has not changed dramatically since routine Taser carriage began in 2015, but the rate of Taser discharges relative to presentations has gradually increased over time," the report reads.

"Police anticipate that a similar use pattern might occur if routine arming of police occurred.

"Recent police data shows that staff are more likely to respond with firearms than previously, even when subjects are not armed with firearms. This may reflect an escalation in the use of other weapons such as knives or machetes, and therefore the level of assessed risk by police.

"However, it is also possible that this increased use may, understandably, be the result of heightened sensitivity to risk among staff."

The report said that there is no evidence that offenders are arming themselves in response to increasing use of firearms by police.

In fact, it suggests gun ownership is a better indicator.

"The presence of armed police is not a reliable indicator of increased firearms use by offenders.

"Evidence suggests that increased gun ownership is the best indicator of increased gun violence, and shootings by police and of police.

"There is no evidence to indicate that the arming decisions of those within the gang and/or organised crime environment is influenced by, or in response to, the tactical settings adopted by police."

Concern armed police could impact on diversity

It found that routine arming could have negative impacts on the relationship between police and the community.

And it said that could lead to a less diverse police force.

"There is also a risk that the combination of routine arming, the requirement to wear ballistic protective gear when on duty, the impact on public trust and confidence and a potential change in public attitudes toward the police, could reduce the diversity of police recruitment.

"Police needs to consider the broader impacts that routine arming may have for recruitment, including the potential for discouraging recruitment of individuals with a stronger community policing approach."

The report highlights stopping a vehicle as the most risky situation for police staff, with 84 percent of all firearm presentations at police happening at this time.

The report looks at the tactical response models of overseas jurisdictions, and it's clear New Zealand's new plan draws heavily from the tactical units in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs