Senior National MP Simon Bridges clashed with Police Commissioner Andy Coster this morning, accusing him not doing enough about gangs in New Zealand.
Coster, however, did not roll over and launched a firm defence of Police when pushing back on Bridges' assertions.
Speaking to media after fronting to the Justice Select Committee this morning, Coster said he welcomed the "robust" debate which he said was "always appropriate in a democracy".
The fiery exchange follows Bridges calling Coster a "wokester" – essentially implying he was more focused on being politically correct than catching criminals.
Asked by media if he was a "wokester", Coster said he didn't want to get into "that conversation" and rather, he would "let his actions speak for themselves".
National leader Judith Collins attempted to rein Bridges in yesterday but he continued on his war path today, telling media he stood by his earlier "wokester" comments.
"He [Coster] wants to be woke and that comes, ultimately, from the top," he said, accusing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of setting the "woke" Police agenda.
Bridges said he had not been reprimanded by Collins and that he "calls it as he sees it".
"There's only one person that reprimands me and that's Natalie Bridges," he said, of his wife.
During this morning's select committee, Bridges was on the offensive.
"Do police still arrest criminals in New Zealand?" Bridges bluntly asked Coster during the hearing.
This question launched a blistering back-and-forth between the pair, which the committee chair was forced to intervene in a number of times.
Coster firmly shot back at Bridges' question.
"Last year, we seized more firearms, we recovered more and restrained more assets from organised crime and we laid more charges for dealing importation and manufacture of methamphetamine and other drugs than we did in the year before even with the disruption of Covid-19."
Bridges didn't call him a "wokester" per se during the committee hearing, but he did say: "You know what I have said in the media."
Coster defended Police's record but conceded that gang numbers were growing in New Zealand.
"We are concerned by the increase in gang violence, [in New Zealand]," he said.
However, he pushed back on any assertion that police were failing to arrest criminals.
He noted police have been putting pressure on gangs and he was stacking up a unit to combat their growth.
Bridges, however, was having none of it: "It's like you're speaking a different language," he said, before adding that Coster was "playing with statistics".
He was also critical of "policing by consent", saying it was preventing the Police from arresting criminals.
But Coster again shot back: "Let me tell you what policing by consent is," he said, looking at Bridges.
"When we look overseas and we see the violent clashes that have occurred between police and ordinary citizens, over Covid lockdowns over issues like black lives matter that's what it looks like when the police lose the consent of their community.
"It has nothing to do with whether or not we will deal with gangs and gang offences."