A police officer has been shot and believed to have died during a routine traffic stop in West Auckland today. A second officer was also shot and injured and a member of the public hit and injured by a vehicle. Last week Melissa Nightingale spoke to a police officer about what it's like to be involved in a shootout.
Kiwi police were shot at by offenders nearly once a month on average over the past year, figures show.
One officer who has been involved in police shootings says the numbers climbed since he first started policing 30 years ago.
The senior officer, who wanted to be referred to as David, has described the moment he and his staff were involved in a dramatic shootout, saying time begins to slow down as the adrenaline kicks in.
David and his staff were pursuing a fleeing vehicle when the driver stopped and got out of the car holding a gun.
"He got out of the car and just started shooting at the police cars straight away."
Multiple officers involved in the pursuit began diving for cover, before turning their own guns on the shooter. He was hit, but was given first aid by police and survived.
David said in the moment when an offender was shooting at police, everything starts to move in "slow motion".
"It becomes life or death, really ... we don't want to not go home, so yeah, [we] shoot back."
David said it was the same for other colleagues he'd spoken to, that in the moment when the shooting happens, "things slow right down in your head".
"All the police sirens, you don't hear them at all. Even the gunshots, really."
It did not matter who was holding the gun, just that there was a gun being fired, he said.
It was strange but also "natural" for police to immediately shift from a mindset of protecting themselves and firing on the offender, to providing first aid and trying to save his life.
"He's got a plan to try to kill you, now we're saving his life. But that's what we do."
Incidents such as these appear to be on the rise, David said, an assertion that's disputed by Arms Down NZ campaigners.
Figures provided to the Herald under the Official Information Act show there were 11 incidents recorded in the past year in which offenders fired a gun at police.
The data runs from only March 2019 to February this year, because prior to that police were not required to report on incidents where they did not use force to apprehend the offender.
There were also 24 incidents where a firearm was presented at police, but not fired.
In contrast, police have fired back at shooters 10 times over the past five years to February 2020, killing three, injuring four, and missing two.
These figures do not include reports of police shooting someone who did not fire a gun at them, or shooting at someone who was not using a gun.
In 2019, police shot six people. From 2015 to 2019 inclusive, they shot 25 people. The figures include non-fatal shootings.
One of the incidents listed as a fatality involved a shootout with an offender in Northland, during which the house the man was in caught fire. His cause of death was listed as unconfirmed.
David said it took months after a shooting event for officers to be able to sleep properly again.
"It's always the 'what ifs' in your head - what could you have done that would have changed it? You second guess yourself. It's just a constant replay."
Then there was the stress of waiting to be formally interviewed about the shooting, and then the year of investigating to find out if the shooting was justified.
When David first joined the police about 30 years ago, shootings were far less common, and there were not as many guns in the community. Now he estimates once in a block of shifts he and his colleagues will find a firearm in someone's car during a random stop.
"Even the minor jobs can turn really bad on you."
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster announced on Tuesday the controversial Armed Response Teams (ARTs) would not be used by police following trials in main centres.
The announcement followed consultation with the community, public feedback, and preliminary findings on the trials.
"It is clear to me that these response teams do not align with the style of policing that New Zealanders expect," he said in a statement.
"We have listened carefully to that feedback and I have made the decision these teams will not be a part of our policing model in the future."
But David said the use of the teams actually made people safer, because the officers involved were highly-trained and were familiar with more tactical options to resolve situations before having to resort to shooting.
He believed ART officers would be able to make decisions with clearer heads under pressure, which meant better outcomes for offenders. He is not an ART officer himself, but is a member of the Armed Offenders Squad.
The six-month trial, which involved groups of officers in Counties Manukau, Waikato and Canterbury being equipped with guns on their hips at all times, has been harshly criticised by groups that do not support further arming of police.
It has since been revealed police were warned before and during the trial about the "severe" consequences of not having consulted with Māori.
Almost immediately after the trial was announced publicly on October 18, there were outcries about a lack of community consultation, particularly from Māori, who are nearly eight times more likely than Pākehā to be on the receiving end of police force.
A survey by Action Station of 1155 Māori and Pasifika people found 85 per cent did not support the ART trial, and 87 per cent said knowing police were armed in their community made them feel less safe.
Between 2009-2019, two thirds of all those shot by New Zealand Police were Māori or Pasifika.
Police Association president Chris Cahill said the number of incidents with police being shot at has been "creeping up" over the last five years.
"Police will try many other methods of resolving the situation than just firing their firearms."
ART was a small and "appropriate" trial, "given the changing circumstances of criminal offending with firearms".
At most it was three or four armed police officers in each of the trial areas at any one time.
"It wasn't a mass arming of police by any stretch of the imagination."
A social media campaign supporting the abolition of plans to arm police has gained traction over the past week as Americans continue to protest police racism and violence.
The hashtag #ArmsDownNZ was trending on Twitter in New Zealand, skyrocketing in popularity after the death of black man George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis last week.
Spokeswoman Emmy Rakete told the Herald further arming of police "will result in racist police killings like the ones we see in America".
"The police data itself demonstrates that firearm crime rates in this country are low and have been very low since 2013.
"We cannot allow the police to pick up guns which we know will be used against Māori and Pacific people."
Assistant Commissioner Tusha Penny said it was a reality that the current policing environment is different from that of five or ten years ago.
"We know that officers are attending more incidents where firearms are present.
"Frontline staff are armed with a variety of tactical options for responding to incidents. If people present firearms to us or other members of the public, we will respond appropriately, with the minimum necessary force to ensure staff and public safety."
Since March 2019, police have seized more than 2400 unlawful firearms from gangs and other offenders.
"The use of a firearm is a decision that no officer takes lightly – it is likely the biggest decision they will make in their police careers, and it is a decision that no officer wants to have to make."