The people represented by Poto Williams loom large in consultations on Police’s Tactical Response Model

Latest from the Beehive

Poto Williams  –  a few months ago – was telling us who had influenced her refusal to support the general arming of police.

At that time, a man who admitted murdering Constable Matthew Hunt during a routine traffic stop was on trial.  He was denying the attempted murder of a second officer.

A Hamilton officer had been injured by a firearm during a routine traffic check earlier that  month, police in Hamilton and Auckland had been confronted by armed offenders, and Police Association president Chris Cahill was calling for more frontline police to be armed because of a growing number of criminals carrying guns.

Poto Williams’ reason for sticking to her guns (so to speak) and for resisting any clamour for the general arming of the police?

The Māori and Pacific Island communities she represents did not want it, she insisted.

Williams told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Yardley she supported police officers being armed when they needed to be, but did not think it should extend to the permanent arming of the force.

This was because she had listened to overwhelming feedback from the Māori, Pacific Island and South Auckland communities who didn’t want it.

The communities she represented – Māori and Pacific – who were telling her “loud and clear” that the general arming of police and the Armed Response Teams (ARTs) were a real concern to them and had been distressed to learn armed police were routinely patrolling their streets, she said.

Here at Point of Order we were inclined to agree with broadcaster Kerre McIvor, who pointed out that the Minister is a New Zealander of Cook Island descent, the MP for Christchurch East and the Minister of Police.

And yet (as McIvor observed)

“… the people she says she represents appear to be exclusively Māori and Pacific Islanders from south Auckland”.

Obviously those communities are important to the Minister and to the Police, because their influence is emphasised in information about the Police’s Tactical Response Model on the Beehive and Police websites.

This model was unveiled in September, when the Government announced $15 million of new funding for the new Tactical Response Model, the expansion of the Frontline Skills Enhancement Course, and an additional 78 constabulary staff and 28 intelligence analysts.

The Police website explains:

Over the past year, there has been a great deal of work undertaken by Police’s Frontline Safety Improvement Programme that listened to more than 1250 staff around their concerns and ideas to improve staff safety. We have engaged with Māori, Pacific and Ethnic community leaders, and taken on board feedback from those who shared their thoughts on Armed Response Teams.

This engagement has informed the development of a new tactical response model. This model is designed around enhancing frontline training; improving frontline access to specialist capability, and strengthening risk-based deployment and technology.

The model has three key components: enhancing frontline training; improving frontline access to specialist capability, and strengthening risk-based deployment and technology.

 Enhanced frontline training

We are doubling our annual tactical training for frontline staff, starting with our Public Safety Teams and Road Policing. This additional training will be modelled on the Frontline Skills Enhancement Course and will provide four days of scenario-based training focusing on appropriate tactical response and de-escalation.

Improving frontline access to specialist capability

Our staff told us they felt safer when they had specialist staff on duty who they could call on for assistance to help resolve critical situations safely. So, secondly, we are increasing the number of staff with Advanced Tactical Training (meaning Armed Offender Squad qualified) to roster them on-shift across two areas:

    • As new positions to enable dog units to operate as a two-person dog team. This will increase the day-to-day safety of handlers who often respond to high-risk incidents alone. As a team they can provide additional specialist tactical support for frontline staff in responding to critical events.
    • And as members of Tactical Prevention Teams, which will be part of existing investigative units that are primarily focused on planned operations to apprehend priority and high-risk offenders and combat organised crime. These specialist teams will also be available to support frontline staff if called on to respond urgently to high-risk incidents.

These staff will wear standard police uniforms and drive standard police vehicles. They will not be generally armed but will have immediate access to tactical options including firearms if the situation requires it.

Risk-based deployment and technology

To support our deployment model we will boost our intelligence capability, so we can deploy staff more safely with increased awareness of the environment and identified threats and priority offenders.

This will enhance the safety of our staff, ensuring they have access to the best information available to support decision making and risk assessments.

The feedback on this model – it seems – has encouraged Poto Williams to move to the next stage.  Today she announced:

“Following positive feedback from a four-week consultation on Police’s Tactical Response Model, Police Minister Poto Williams has welcomed the next steps of trials in Northland, Counties Manukau, Waikato, and Central districts.”

Great.  But who was consulted?

“Police held more than 570 engagement sessions in communities across the country with iwi, Pacific, and ethnic communities, as well all other agencies. The feedback was positive and no changes have been made to the Tactical Response Model prior to its rollout”.

Let’s read that again.

The Police held more than 570 engagement sessions in communities across the country with iwi, Pacific, and ethnic communities, as well all other agencies.

What (we wonder) is meant by “all other agencies”?  

All other law-and-order agencies?

All other state agencies?

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster mentions the positive feedback without reference to “all other agencies”:

“Our community engagement both before and during the four-week consultation period saw us hold more than 570 engagement sessions with representatives from a diverse range of community groups around the country including proactive engagement with  Māori, Pacific and Ethnic communities.   

“We received an additional 214 direct responses from others to the consultation. 

“Earlier this year we held around 85 workshops with more than 1250 Police staff about their experiences and ideas to improve staff safety.  These sessions and responses have been positive.”

The Police have posted a statement today which says trials will start in the community from late November.

Northland and Central Police Districts will be testing a full version of the Model.

This means they will trial all components including training, access to specialist capability for dog handlers and Tactical Prevention Teams, and risk-based deployment and technology.

Counties Manukau and Waikato will test training, Tactical Prevention Teams, and risk-based deployment and technology.

The commissioner is emphatic the Police will remain a generally unarmed Service in New Zealand.

But let’s return to the latest press statement from the Minister.

“As Police Minister, I am committed to ensuring Police have the people, resources, and legislation they need to keep themselves and our communities safe,” said Poto Williams.

“That’s why we provided this funding to accelerate the new Tactical Response Model, to increase the training and capability of frontline staff.

“Our Police go above and beyond what is expected to keep our communities safe. I want each and every one of them to get home safely to their whānau at the end of the day.”

Then she talked of her Government’s “record investment in Police” and provided a list of Police achievements:

    • The Government’s record investment in Police has resulted in 2,695 new police officers on the frontline
    • The Police workforce is larger than it has ever been under any previous government, surpassing 14,000
    • This Government is on track to deliver 1800 extra constables by June 2023
    • Police have seized over $500m in cash and assets from gangs and criminals in four years alone. Translated – that’s the equivalent of $1.6 billion removed from the illicit economy.
    • Operation Tauwhiro, our crackdown on gangs and organised crime, has resulted in 1091 firearms seized, $5.5 million in cash seized, and 940 people have been arrested in relation to firearms offences

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