A recent run of gun-related incidents has reignited a debate about whether the time has come for police to carry guns.
Two incidents last week shocked the nation as a woman was carjacked at gunpoint by a man in Auckland before he was shot by police, just hours after another man was shot and killed by police in relation to a firearms matter in Hamilton.
Both occurred as the trial of Eli Epiha progresses in Auckland's High Court. The 25-year-old, who has already pleaded guilty to the murder of Constable Matthew Hunt, is accused of attempting to murder Constable David Goldfinch during a routine traffic stop on June 19 last year.
Yesterday morning, police minister Poto Williams sparked debate by saying she did not support the general arming of police.
While she supported officers being armed when necessary, she thought it shouldn't extend to permanent arming or the controversial Armed Response Teams (ARTs), which were trialled in 2019.
Williams said her stance was based on feedback she'd received from Māori, Pasifika and South Auckland communities who she claimed were against general arming.
Those comments triggered a wave of reaction from the wider public on both the arming of police - and the reason why she was against it.
A former South Auckland officer, who asked to remain anonymous, believed it was only a matter of time before all police were armed.
"The job has become more exponentially dangerous in the last five years," he said.
"The arming of police full-time is now inevitable and it's a shame that innocent lives like (police officers) and, heaven forbid, the public will be lost until the PC brigade accept that it is now necessary."
Police Association president Chris Cahill said his members weren't happy with Williams' comments.
"Many point out the fact that under the Policing Act, this is an operational decision, not a decision for the minister."
Cahill supported the reinstatement of ARTs, which faced public outcry over an alleged lack of community consultation, particularly from Māori.
National Party leader Judith Collins, who called for Williams' resignation over yesterday's comments, told RNZ she approved of using ARTs but did not expect all police to be armed.
Two South Auckland community leaders were divided on the issue.
Manukau councillor Alf Filipaina, who worked for the police for almost 40 years, said he had been strongly against arming officers but in light of recent events, the former Māngere community constable now believed guns should be more easily accessible to police.
"There's a lot of work to be done first, but I'm really changing my mind around that as a result of the incidents that have happened."
Asked whether his community had been united in their opposition to arming police, Filipaina said he hadn't heard this sentiment widely.
"I'm not getting that many people saying we shouldn't have them full stop because things have changed, even in the last few months, things have changed in regards to police officers and especially our community being shot at, injured and killed."
Fellow Manukau councillor Fa'anana Efeso Collins was satisfied his community was largely safe from guns and arming police wasn't necessary.
While he was concerned about the presence of guns in his community, Collins said it was more important to address the lack of trust whānau had for police through community engagement.
"If we just go ahead and generally arm the police, all we are going to do is shut the door on any trust relationship between the police as an institution and South Auckland Māori and Pacific communities."
Last night Williams agreed, repeating her view that there was no need to arm police, as officers had access to guns when they needed them.
"The general arming of police would fundamentally alter the nature of the relationship the NZ public has with Police: trusted, approachable, not a force to be feared."
Police data shows Māori are nearly eight times more likely than Pākehā to be on the receiving end of police force.
Force was used against Māori 40 per cent more often than Pākehā during 2019 - an increase from 24 per cent in 2014.