By Andrew King
Frontline police in Canterbury will have more weaponry from Saturday to deal with dangerous incidents.
The number of rifles and handguns will increase in police vehicles to give officers more fire power.
The initiative is being rolled out across New Zealand in response to the increasing number of armed incidents.
It comes at a time when the Police Association - the police officers' union - released a 30-page document last week supporting the general arming of police.
The NZ Police doesn't support the general arming.
The report has been distributed to political parties to let them know of rank and file police views on arming.
Police Association president Chris Cahill said yesterday the increase in criminals confronting officers with firearms means police should be armed all of the time.
"If there isn't something done around the proliferation of firearms in the hands in criminals, then it is inevitable police will have to carry firearms on them (at all times) as well," he said.
The increase in the number of guns available to frontline police from Saturday was an indication full general arming like in Australia could be a reality in the future, he said.
Last year, The Star revealed firearms were being stolen to order in Canterbury and falling into the hands of hardened criminals. Handguns were being sold for $1000 on the black market.
Police are now regularly finding firearms in vehicles they stop.
But police national manager of response and operation Superintendent Chris Scahill yesterday said the current environment does not support officers being armed.
"Who knows what the future will hold, but right now we don't feel there is a need. But like anything we will continue to review and assess the environment and society's expectations," he said.
Replied Cahill: "We will continue to lobby for officers to carry firearms all the time," he said.
But Supt Scahill said the initiative to increase the amount of weaponry was based around having more police available to deal with armed incidents.
"The whole idea is to increase the number of sworn staff who can respond to armed scenarios. Then we needed to increase the number of weapons available to those officers," he said.
"This allows any response officer on duty to be able to have access to those weapons," he said.
Canterbury-based Inspector Bryan Buck said: "Criminals have more access than ever to firearms and we need to be able to deal with situations like that safely for the staff involved and the public.
"This enables us to react quickly to worse case scenarios."
Officers have been undergoing training in the past 12 months to prepare for the increased number of firearms they will soon have, he said.
The latest police shooting in Christchurch was in February when Murray James Allan was shot in the face after he pointed a blank firing pistol at police in Woolston.
Since August 2016 nine bars have been robbed at gunpoint, while dairies, petrol stations and bottle stores have been the targets of armed robberies also.
The Woolston Night n' Day has been robbed 10 times since September 2016.
Doug Roake recently pleaded guilty to six armed robberies of bars across Canterbury and the shooting of two women near Rolleston on April 19.
A task force was formed to catch Roake, who amassed more than $115,000 in his one-man crime wave.
He will be sentenced on August 23.