Police Minister Poto Williams insists new Tactical Response Model is not Armed Response Teams

Police Minister Poto Williams insists a new Tactical Response Model is not the controversial Armed Response Teams (ARTs) trialled and discontinued last year.

The Government announced a $45 million investment in police on Wednesday, including $15.496 million for a new Tactical Response Model, an additional 78 constabulary staff and 28 intelligence analysts, and frontline training. 

The Tactical Response Model will include Tactical Dog Teams and Tactical Prevention Teams with advanced training to undertake warrants and other work involving moderate risk. They will be "generally unarmed" unless specific deployment requires it. 

"I want to be clear - the new Tactical Response Model is not Armed Response Teams," Williams said as the funding boost was unveiled. 

"These officers will wear standard police uniforms, drive standard police vehicles, and will not be armed in their day-to-day duties. They will support frontline investigation and prevention teams and will focus on high-risk offenders, firearms, methamphetamine, and organised crime groups."

National began calling for the return of ARTs a few months ago after Police Commissioner Andrew Coster revealed violent criminal behaviour was ramping up, and offenders seemed to be more willing to use guns against police.

Police Minister Poto Williams.
Police Minister Poto Williams. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

The Police Minister's refusal to back arming police over concerns for Māori and Pacific communities being targeted, led National leader Judith Collins to call for her sacking. 

Her criticism of Williams also centered on an increase in patched gang members. The latest  figures show that in April, there were 8003 gang members - 2435 more than when Labour came to power in 2017.

National's police spokesperson Simeon Brown said on Twitter it was "good" the Government was paying attention to the needs of police, but he said it looked as though ARTs were being introduced in "disguise". 

"This is good news for frontline officers but simply reinforces that the ARTs should never have been abandoned."

Williams says police consulted with frontline staff and a wide range of community partners in developing the new response model. 

"We can never eliminate the risk from policing. But this funding will go a long way to ensuring our officers are prepared and supported in their work," she said. 

"Police are frontline workers who go above and beyond to keep our communities safe. I want every single Police officer to get home safely to their family at the end of the day.

"I try to call every officer that gets seriously injured on duty. But these are not calls I want to have to make. Improving frontline safety is something the commissioner and I are both resolutely committed to - and we will continue to work together on this. 

"We owe this to our officers."

Police Association president Chris Cahill said the plan "falls short of the overwhelming call from our members for general arming", but he's willing to see how it goes. 

"We are prepared to give this tactical response model an opportunity to deliver what our members so clearly need to police safely without the need for general arming. 

"It's a big ask, but all indications are that police and the Government are serious about a viable alternative between the status quo and an armed police service."