Police want armed patrols on Auckland's streets 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"Armed response vehicles" would be manned by firearms specialists and provide a quick response to call-outs like last week's shooting of Manurewa liquor store owner Navtej Singh.
The Weekend Herald can reveal a proposal for a six-month trial of the patrols is being recommended by a top-level police review.
The proposal will be put to Police Commissioner Howard Broad for consideration by August and, if approved, the patrols could begin in March.
Police say the trial would probably involve four cars, each manned by a pair of officers and carrying Bushmaster rifles and Glock 9mm pistols.
It would create an official policy of routinely arming police officers, eroding the force's 122-year-history of being "generally unarmed".
The Weekend Herald has also learned police want the patrols to carry a medium-range "less-lethal" option such as the newly developed Taser Xrep - which fires an incapacitating Taser projectile from a 12-gauge shotgun.
Police acting national operations manager Superintendent John Rivers said the armed patrol proposal was part of a review that began this year.
The review's aim was "to further develop police effectiveness when responding to calls for service where weapons are involved" and Mr Rivers said the patrols would augment existing police procedure.
"If armed intervention is required they [the patrols] are placed to readily provide it," he said.
Mr Rivers said there was a "strong and obvious connection" with Mr Singh's murder. Police have been criticised for rigidly following procedure in waiting 24 minutes from the 111 call until entering the shop where he lay dying.
Mr Rivers acknowledged the patrols would be controversial, but said the "cornerstone" police response remained "cordon, contain and negotiate".
Mr Rivers said the patrols were based on the armed response vehicles used by police forces in the United Kingdom for 20 years.
The trial would not cover the entire city, and while Mr Rivers did not know exactly where it would cover, he said it would be "high-risk" areas.
The patrols would probably use standard police cars, and Mr Rivers said the officers would not necessarily carry the weapons, but would have them in the car.
The patrols would operate at peak times.
Mr Rivers said the review team was "very, very keen" to test mid-range lethal weaponry to supplement the close-range options of the baton, pepper spray and Taser.
The review was keeping a watching brief on the Taser Xrep, which uses Taser stun technology in a shotgun-type cartridge and can hit targets 20m away.
The projectile contains an electronic battery-powered "engine" and does not require the wires used in standard-issue Tasers.
Mr Rivers said another option was bean bag guns, which fired "socks" filled with shot.
He said some British police officers now working in Auckland had been involved with armed response vehicles un the UK and could be used for training or staffing the unit here.
Mr Rivers said the review team was awaiting the internal report on Mr Singh's murder with interest.
He denied that police were being opportunistic by revealing the plans for armed patrols while there was so much public concern and criticism of the police response to Mr Singh's killing, saying all critical incidents provided "impetus".
Armed patrols were in the news in 1993 when Rotorua Detective Inspector John Dewar - convicted last year of covering up Louise Nicholas' police sex complaints - sent armed offenders squad members through the city to curb armed robberies.
The move was stopped after the Council for Civil Liberties sent a letter of protest to the Police Commissioner.
Campaign against the Taser spokeswoman and defence lawyer Marie Dyhrberg said she agreed with the proposals for the armed patrols and Taser Xrep "in principle".
She said the armed patrols meant officers with the right training and psychological approach would handle situations involving firearms, "and if someone has to shoot you want the right person".
Taser Xrep could also be beneficial if it allowed police to stand back further and negotiate, but police would have to be open with any trial results so the community could be assured it was safe.By Patrick Gower Email Patrick