Controversial Police Armed Response Teams trial to end on Sunday

Source: 1News

The Police's Armed Response Teams trials are coming to an end this weekend, with a two month evaluation to look at how it went.

In October, then Police Commissioner Mike Bush announced a six-month trial of full-time armed police units in Counties Manukau, Waikato and Canterbury, with new customised vehicles carrying teams of trained Armed Offenders Squad (AOS) officers ready to respond to "high risk" incidents at any times.

On police's  page  about the trials, the teams' purpose is defined as being "focused on responding to events where a 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".

On Sunday, the trial of ARTs, which has attracted criticism, will end.

Newly appointed Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said police's Evidence Based Policing Centre will take two months to evaluate the trial as one part of a review into ARTs.

"We know that some communities have had some concerns about the ARTs and how they were being deployed. Now the trial is over an evaluation will be done and the views of the community taken into account as part of that," Mr Coster said.

"This will include data collected during the trial, public perceptions data, and the views of police teams involved, as well as other relevant interested parties.

"We will also consult with community groups and talk to our people and the teams involved with the ARTs. We recognise that the ultimate question of the style of policing we adopt in this country cannot be answered by an evaluation, instead it needs to reflect a wider conversation with our communities."

Mr Coster said, for police, the trial was about having specialist police personnel immediately ready to deploy to critical or high-risk incidents.

"This was to support our frontline with any incidents that required enhanced tactical capabilities. This was also part of recognising we were, and still are, at a medium threat level," he said.

"Everything we do, we do to keep New Zealanders safe and feeling safe."

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

Justice advocate Julia Whaipooti also voiced fears it puts Māori lives at risk .

Mr Coster said how the public felt was important and that "any options that come out of the review will be consulted with communities as part of our efforts to take a collaborative approach to policing".

Staff will go back to the substantive roles which they were in prior to the trial and the specialised vehicles will not be used in the short term.