Petition with 10,000 signatures urges Goverment to stop armed police trial

Anna Whyte
Source: 1News

A petition with 10,000 signatures was delivered to Parliament urging Government to stop the trial of police Armed Response Teams and to commit to never bringing it in. 

The trial of specialist police response teams in Counties Manukau, Waikato and Canterbury was announced last month with the aim of supporting police in high-risk situations. It comes as the threat level in New Zealand remains at medium since the March 15 terrorist attacks. 

"Police are continually reviewing the way they respond to high-risk incidents and ensure community safety during critical events," Police Minister Stuart Nash said. "The six-month trial of Armed Response Teams (ARTs) is the latest feature of that ongoing reassessment."

Mr Nash said it was important that frontline police had access to tools and resources during high-risk events and it did not mean police would move to routine arming. 

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said there had been an increase in the amount of gun crime since the Christchurch terrorist attack.

"They will look like every other front-line police officer but they will be equipped in such a way that they will be able to respond to those incidents in a way that immediately provides support to other frontline staff to ensure that our communities remain safe," he said. 

However, the trial  immediately attracted criticism with the group 'People Against Prisons Aotearoa' warning it could cause "American-style shootings". 

Emilie Rākete of the group said that New Zealanders "don't want our policing to follow the lead of failed approaches overseas".

"This plan is irresponsible, unnecessary, and will lead to racist violence."

Auckland Councillor for Manukau, Fa’anana Efeso Collins , told TVNZ 1's Tagata Pasifika in November "the evidence is clear when it comes to militarising the police, it is brown males who are going to suffer the most and that’s the danger I see".

"We know that when the police interact with Māori and Pacific people, if you’re Māori, you’re 13 more times likely to have a dog set on you than if you are Pakeha," he said. 

Yesterday at Parliament, the petition of Melissa Lama was presented to Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson. 

"I'm very clear that I support the voices, that I have a responsibility to highlight this very real, real risk, that this is not about 10,000 signatures," Ms Davidson said. 

'This is about my community, one of the many communities where the armed trials are taking place. This is about my two young boys who are Māori... this is about my uncles, my brother, my father, this is about all of us. 

"Where was the discussion on this initiative? Where was the honouring of the intention to have better relationships with Māori and Pacific communities? Where is the evidence this is going to work?"

"I am going to be taking all of your points, all of your concerns and mine directly to the Police Commissioner," she said.