Guns could be made more accessible to police amid concerns about the growing number of officers being "ambushed".

Police Commissioner Howard Broad said a policy was being developed to allow officers discretion about whether they should arm themselves in higher-risk situations.

"I'm comfortable that if they feel they need weapons of that level, then they should have them," said Mr Broad.

It is believed the new policy will be "well on the way" to implementation by Christmas. The present policy allows for police to be armed, depending on the level of risk, with authorisation from superiors.

"I'm extremely mindful that we have a small number of very violent people in our society," Mr Broad said, adding that nine officers had either been killed or wounded by firearms in the last few years.

"These [shooting] situations that are occurring, many are surprise events. An ambush if you like," said Mr Broad.

In these situations, there could be weapons such as handguns immediately available to police officers.

"At the moment, those weapons are either held at the police station or held in one of the supervisor's vehicles. It's quite a big step to actually withdraw and go and get weapons and return to the scene of an incident. We are looking at a situation where those weapons would be available to officers on frontline duty with their vehicles, held in secure facilities, but available to them.

"Now, it's a judgment call for our officers, but I back the judgment of our officers."

Fully arming police was a much bigger consideration, and risked letting guns get into the hands of criminals, Mr Broad said.

Police Minister Judith Collins backed the concept of easier access.

"I'm happy for the commissioner to come up with some plans as to what will be done. Obviously I want to see the policy, but the commissioner and I have discussed the matter, and I am of the view that we should be backing our officers."

The Police Association welcomed the move, but gave warning that it would ultimately mean more people getting shot.

Greg O'Connor, the association's president, said: "If these officers had shot someone [yesterday] there would be a massive outcry in the media about why did the police need to shoot them and that's where we just need to grow up as a country."

New Zealanders needed to stop "getting squeamish" about firearms and "get squeamish" about officers getting shot, he said.

Mr O'Connor said the current system - where one or two designated shift sergeants had guns locked in their cars - was fine when police had warning. "But the problem is all these shootings are coming out of nothing."