Lack of consultation meant positives of armed response teams got lost - Police Association President Chris Cahill

The New Zealand Police Association says the police are to blame for the failure of the armed response team trial.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster announced on Tuesday the armed response teams (ARTs) would not be part of the policing model in the future after a failed six-month trial which ended in April. 

The trial, started under ex-Cmmr Mike Bush, aimed to improve gun safety in communities in the wake of the Christchurch shooting.

But on Tuesday, Cmmr Coster said it was clear the ARTs didn't align with the "style of policing" New Zealanders expect.

Police Association President Chris Cahill said the police didn't properly communicate the message about ARTs to the public.

"Police failed on this one," Cahill told The AM Show on Wednesday.

"This allowed people who were real anti it [arming police] to lead the debate against it and, unfortunately, lead the debate with incorrect information.

"Some of the good things that these things achieved or the intention has been lost but it's understandable, and I can see why the Commissioner decided to draw a line under it."

Cmmr Andrew Coster, left, and Chris Cahill.
Cmmr Andrew Coster, left, and Chris Cahill. Photo credit: The AM Show

But Cahill pointed out the ARTs resolved 186 firearms incidents during the trial. However, data earlier obtained by Newshub Nation showed the ARTs mostly responded to traffic stops.

He said the positives of the initiatives were lost due to lack of communication and consultation by the police.

"They [ARTs] actually were successful and I certainly know, if it was my community, I'd like the best, highest trained person to turn up to these serious incidents," Cahill said.

"Having these teams on the ground already was a big advantage and I'm not saying they were the complete answer, but if we'd got the communication right and done [sic] the trial right we perhaps would have got a better understanding of the mix we need in New Zealand. Because we can't deny there's a need for it."

Coster told The AM Show on Wednesday police listened to feedback from the public before scrapping the ARTs.

"The key issue here is having people routinely carrying firearms - I've made it really clear that's not part of the policing model that I would support for New Zealand," Cmmr Coster said.

"Absolutely, we do have access to firearms when they're required but the point is, 99 percent of the time when we're interacting with the public we are not carrying a firearm and that, for me, is the style difference that's important.

"We need to remember it was a trial and we are going to take a range of learnings from the trial, particularly in terms of how we keep evolving the skills and training available to the frontline to deal with the high-end firearms incidents."

Last week, Labour Māori Caucus co-chair Willie Jackson said concerns were discussed with Police Minister Stuart Nash, saying the trial commenced with a lack of consultation - especially with Māori.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Nash have both said they don't support the general arming of police officers.