About 2700 police cars could be carrying up to two pistols and two rifles within a few months, Police Minister Judith Collins has said.

Police are working through a review of arming officers, which is expected to include a proposal to have lock boxes with firearms in every police patrol car.

April figures show that 641 police cars have gun safes at the moment, but these do not always carry firearms.

A lock box could carry two pistols and two rifles, the Police Association said.

Police will have a final proposal to Ms Collins by the end of the year, and she said lock boxes could be in place within a few months.

"One option [Commissioner Howard Broad] is likely to consider is lock boxes for pistols in the front of police vehicles," Ms Collins told the Police Association conference in Wellington yesterday.

"I'd be happy to support that. However, what I wouldn't support are officers wearing guns at schools, in malls or where they have a lot of contact with the community."

She later said she supported giving police officers the discretionary powers they needed to use the guns as necessary.

"It's important to get that right because just having guns locked in cars isn't necessarily going to make any officer any safer."

She said she would reserve judgment until she had seen the policy details.

Nine police officers have been shot in the past two years, two fatally.

Human rights advocates have criticised arming more police cars, saying it would make confrontations riskier, not safer.

Police figures from April show that 641 police vehicles can carry firearms, including pistol-only safes in dog handlers' vehicles, combined pistol and rifle safes in general-duties cars, bulk rifle and pistol safes in sergeants' vehicles and safes in rural officers' vehicles.

In Auckland City, two sergeants' cars permanently carry rifles and pistols.

In the two years to the end of December, firearms were issued 194 times - an average of almost twice a week.

Labour law and order spokesman Clayton Cosgrove said lock boxes were worth looking at but he would wait for Commissioner Broad's advice.

During its conference, the Police Association will decide its position on the general arming of officers.

Association president Greg O'Connor said he thought there was some value in having unarmed police. But the status quo of officers going back to the station or waiting for arms to arrive was not acceptable.