Judith Collins accuses Government of pressuring police commissioner Andrew Coster into ditching armed response teams

National leader Judith Collins is accusing the Government of pressuring police commissioner Andrew Coster into ditching armed response teams - and wants them brought back amid spiralling gun violence.

Armed response teams (ARTs) were scrapped after a trial last year. They were brought in by former police commissioner Mike Bush following the 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks. 

In announcing last June that ARTs wouldn't continue, Coster said they didn't "align with the style of policing that New Zealanders expect".

But Collins claims Coster was pushed into scrapping them in the first place. Newshub has contacted police, and Police Minister Poto Williams' office, for a response to these claims.

"We had the Government basically pushing around the police and getting the police commissioner to stop that trial when it was clearly needed - and we're seeing the results of some of that now," Collins told The AM Show.

Coster previously said police had listened to feedback from the public before scrapping the ARTs. Collins said that was "rubbish". 

"I represent Papakura electorate - [I] have done for almost 20 years - people there don't like the fact that they have to live next door, in some cases, to armed gang members.

"They are actually wanting the police to be able to deal with these people and you're seeing police officers shot in so-called 'routine traffic enforcement.'"

Collins said Coster was a "very pleasant, nice, decent person" - but noted he's not on the front line of the police force. The most recent survey on arming front-line officers showed 69 percent wanted firearms on them at all times - the police association suspects that number will rise after a recent spate of gun crime.

"It's very important… that he gets back into that front line and starts listening to his troops," Collins said.

"People in south Auckland do not want armed gang members - they'd much rather have an ART or unit that's able to help whenever they need."

Judith Collins.
Judith Collins. Photo credit: The AM Show

However, Action Station surveyed 1155 Māori and Pasifika people about the ARTs - finding 85 percent didn't support the trial going ahead while 87 percent felt less safe knowing there were armed police in their community

Another 91 percent of those surveyed said they wouldn't call the police for help if they knew they had guns on them.

But Collins said some of that feedback given to Coster on ARTs was "absolute nonsense".

"Most people in these communities, in the south Auckland communities, do not indulge in gang violence and they are the victims of gang violence."

In a statement to The AM Show, Williams' office said the Government won't tolerate gangs and violent crime - and is working hard to disrupt them.

Williams said the Government's track record on preventing the risk of gun crime is "well established".

Poto Williams.
Poto Williams. Photo credit: Newshub.

"I have confidence in the commissioner of police to ensure officers are deployed in a way that keeps the community and themselves safe and prevents crime, and this is an ongoing project to continuously improve safety." 

In an interview with Stuff earlier this week, Coster dismissed arming police as an option despite officers being "concerned" about recent incidents. 

"There is very little evidence to suggest that doing that would actually change the behaviours we are seeing."