Christopher Luxon wants police to listen to frontline officers on general arming

Police need to listen to frontline officers on the issue of arming, National leader Christopher Luxon says.

Three police officers were hospitalised this week after being shot at by a man in the Auckland suburb of Glen Eden. Police returned fire, killing the individual. 

It's the latest in a string of shootings in Auckland, raising serious concerns for the Police Association, which said on Monday that the policing environment was becoming "more and more dangerous". 

"We read that there were more than 900 firearm offences in Auckland this year alone. In the past five years 350 people have been shot and injured across Auckland," said association vice-President Mike McRandle on Monday. "Daily there are incidents of innocent members of the public being caught in gun violence, armed robberies and car-jackings, inter-gang warfare with firearms involved, and police officers also being shot at."

A Police Association survey earlier this year found 73 percent of constabulary members believe they should be generally armed, up 4 percent on 2019.

Luxon, who was chosen as National Party leader on Tuesday, said arming police was a "big issue", but also an operational one. 

"Every week we're seeing crime around guns, it's getting more violent. I think a lot of it's been driven by gangs clearly and again, that is a decision ultimately for the police to make. The Police Association and the police themselves, that's an issue they should be thinking about for sure."

Pushed on whether he supported officers being armed, Luxon said police, as an organisation, need to listen "very closely to the frontline officers because it is alarming that each and every week we're getting more and more gun crime".

"If the frontline police officers are feeling that they need it, that's something they should listen to and they should action."

Police Minister Poto Williams told Newshub on Tuesday she wasn't in favour of routine arming and "never will be". 

"What I am in favour of is when situations are needed that we have the right staff deployed in the right way with the right resources," she said.

Williams said police were increasing firearms training and having more staff trained to the Armed Offenders Squad level. In September, she announced a $45 million investment into a new Tactical Response Model and skill enhancement course. 

"I want to be clear – the new Tactical Response Model is not Armed Response Teams. These officers will wear standard police uniforms, drive standard police vehicles, and will not be armed in their day-to-day duties," Williams said at the time.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster on Monday said police were focused on getting guns out of the community, mentioning Operation Tauwhiro, which since February has seen more than 1000 firearms seized. Monday's incident is not thought to be gang-related.

Coster said police were "concerned about the escalation we've seen of violence".

Newshub revealed on Tuesday that 440 police officers have been hospitalised from injuries sustained at work over the past decade.