Police Commissioner Howard Broad says New Zealand should remain a routinely unarmed police force - and that is something to be proud of.

This morning he again repeated his position that he did not think the police force should be generally armed, although there was some middle ground from the status quo that police would move to.

He is currently reviewing police access to firearms and will report to Police Minister Judith Collins by the end of the year.

One of the options, which has some support from Ms Collins, was to have lock boxes in about 2700 frontline police cars.

"We've had 140-odd years of being an unarmed police agency. We're one of the very few in the world and that is something to be really proud of," Mr Broad said.

"There is something really special about New Zealand police and New Zealand society."

He said the review was focusing on accessibility and the best way to get firearms into officers' hands when they need them.

"I'm gravely concerned about the threat to our society and I do not want my officers in a situation where they are taking casualties in order to perform their duty.

"I think there is a position between fully arming and our present position that is the next step."

Gun safes are already in 641 police cars, mainly supervisors' cars.

Mr Broad said lock boxes would not necessarily have prevented some of the shootings of officers in the past.

In July in Christchurch, two officers were fired on while carrying out a drugs search.

"In Christchurch where our officers went to the door of a house looking for a particular person, would we say that that is a situation that ought to be contained before someone makes access to the house, and what do we say about the presence of firearms in a situation like that?" Commissioner Broad said.

Heavily armed forces such as in America were still subject to ambush attacks, and also were at risk of having their arms taken off them and used against them, he said.

"So there are some quite curly little questions ... Arming is not a total panacea to the risk."

He said a general principle was that more guns meant more risk, but that could be mitigated with training and strong policies.

The Police Association, which is having its annual conference in Wellington, will debate the issue of a generally armed police force and decide its position tomorrow.

Association president Greg O'Connor has said moving to a generally armed police force was inevitable, but there was some benefit to having an unarmed force.

The association supports lock boxes in frontline patrol cars.

Prime Minister John Key said he was not comfortable with a fully armed police force and preferred non-lethal options such as tasers.

"The gun in the car is just making sure it can be accessed more quickly."