Locked and Loaded

NZPA | Thu March 1st, 2012

The rollout of extra firearms and Tasers to frontline police vehicles has begun. It is a huge project, costing up to $6 million, affecting 1482 cars, all districts and frontline staff, and is the culmination of a significant shift in Police policy on firearms. We report on progress so far.

The phased rollout started in Northland in February, moving south over the rest of the year.

At the end of that time, GDB, highway and strategic traffic unit response patrol cars will be fitted to receive a boot safe and a cab safe, and 908 of them will be carrying safes containing a Glock 17, M4 Bushmaster rifle, a Taser and body armour.

The idea is that officers will have “quick, easy and safe” access to a range of “tactical equipment” - ie, lethal and less-lethal options.

The policy shift follows concerns, some of which were raised in a 2010 Police Association member’s survey, about staff and public safety.

The focus of the rollout is GDB and road policing staff in response roles. With nine police officers shot in a two-year period, two of them fatally, Commissioner Peter Marshall says: “We cannot expect guardians of the law to soak up casualties.

Doing nothing is not an option.” However, Police say increased accessibility has to be balanced with the commitment to remain a service that is not routinely armed.

The aim is to increase availability, not to arm staff. Mr Marshall adds: “While the provision of weapons is important to officers’ safety, we have a long and proud tradition of skilfully resolving incidents through talking.”

Communication is still considered an important tactical option in resolving incidents. One of the more significant changes is that an officer who believes a firearm or Taser is needed at an incident will no longer need to seek approval to take action; however they must inform Comms and their NCO of their decision to carry in the case of firearms.

The Operations Group behind the rollout expects most of the new equipment will be in place by July.

Training

Some extra training will be required for new equipment and around policy changes.

Senior Sergeant Paddy Hannon, who is co-ordinating the roll out of equipment, says that up to 1450 staff will be newly trained in Taser use, meaning more officers, such as those in road policing, will be trained in use of the less-lethal option.

Most staff already have firearms training through the SSTT system.

Fitting out vehicles

 The Operations Group is asking for patience from members during the rollout; it won’t happen overnight.

The implementation process has to be done incrementally because of the amount of equipment and the logistics of fitting the security safes in vehicles without disrupting Police work.

There are 1482 response patrol vehicles in the fleet, which will be fitted with alarms and the capability to carry firearms and Tasers.

All the response vehicles will have rails fitted that can hold safes. It is estimated that 60 per cent of response vehicles are deployed at any given time over a 24-hour period, meaning 908 vehicles nationwide would require security safes containing lethal and less-lethal tactical options.
 

Holden dealers are doing the fit outs, including installing glass break car alarms to enhance security of vehicles and weapons.

Primarily there are three models of vehicle, some of which already have firearms and Taser safes fitted. All current safes will be replaced with a new design to carry a Glock and a Taser in the cab and offering better functionality for carriage of rifles in the boot.

Each vehicle will be issued with three sets of keys. Under the new policy, each person in the patrol car must have a set of vehicle keys and a set of safe keys, so all staff at an incident will have access to the safes.

This idea is that the whole response fleet will have immediate access to both lethal and less-lethal tactical options without having to return to the station.

 Weapons

Over the next few months, all districts will be receiving, among other things: Taser training cartridges, Taser belt clips and holsters and Tasers themselves; 287 new Tasers have been ordered for distribution to districts.

Mr Hannon says an additional 46 Glocks have been bought for distribution to districts with Northland, Waitemata and Counties Manukau scheduled to receive the first of these in February.

The new Glocks come with a luminous 3-dot sighting system and throughout the year existing Glocks will be fitted with the same system by the national police Armoury as part of its annual technical inspections.

Other districts get them from March. In all, 151 M4 Bushmasters will be bought for operational use. These will be fitted with the same Aimpoint optical sighting system that is currently in use with the Armed Offenders Squad and used in law enforcement and military units worldwide.

Training in the new sighting system is due to begin in July and introduction of the new weapons, along with retrofitting of sights to existing weapons, is scheduled to start in November.

The cost

Mr Hannon says the budget for the additional and new equipment runs into the millions, including new, torch-capable holsters for the Glock (including new magazine holders), reworked and improved Taser holsters, both of which attach to a permanent clip on the duty belt, new and improved firearms and Taser security safes, glass break alarms, illuminated front and rear sights for Glocks, M4 rifle magazine holders (attached to the stock of the M4) and the Aimpoint Comp M4 optical sighting system.

The budget covers training around any new equipment, such as holsters, the Aimpoint sights and the operation of the safes, and the additional Taser training. On-going training costs will come from the districts.

Funding has also been provided to the Armoury to develop a testing laboratory for Taser and Taser forensic analysis capability.

The laboratory will allow Police to have a facility capable of testing Tasers to the standard achieved at Taser International, meaning the Armoury will be recognised by Taser as an Approved Test Facility.

Additionally, the Armoury can now complete forensic analysis after a Taser discharge of both the weapon itself and the discharged cartridge and probes.

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