New Zealand police try armed patrols after Christchurch mosque attacks
Officers in New Zealand do not usually carry firearms, but police chiefs were 'continuously reviewing tools, training and capabilities'
New Zealand police said they had introduced armed patrols on Friday in response to the Christchurch mosques massacre in which 51 Muslim worshippers were killed.
The force prides itself as an unarmed service, but Commissioner Mike Bush said changes had to be brought in after the worst mass shooting in modern New Zealand history in March.
"Following the events of March 15 in Christchurch, our operating environment has changed," Mr Bush said.
"The threat level remains at medium and we are continuously reviewing our tools, training and capabilities we use to provide policing services to ensure we remain fit for purpose."
Officers on regular patrols in New Zealand do not carry firearms but there are Armed Offender Squads that can be mobilised when required.
Under the new system being tested in three regions, including Christchurch, those officers will be constantly on patrol in special vehicles, allowing for more rapid response times.
"The trial of these new teams will be closely monitored and does not mean that police are moving to routine arming," Police Minister Stuart Nash said.
The two police officers who arrested the mosque shooter were armed, and earlier that day had attended a training session on dealing with armed offenders.
The pair received bravery awards from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern this week.
The armed patrols are the latest in reforms Ms Ardern's government has introduced after the massacre, including tighter gun ownership laws and launching a firearms buyback scheme.
This week Ms Ardern announced the establishment of an investigation team dedicated solely to tackling online extremism, and she has pushed tech giants to do more to tackle the issue.
The accused gunman, Australian Brenton Tarrant, has pleaded not guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 of attempted murder, and engaging in a terrorist act.
His trial will begin on June 2 next year in Christchurch.
Updated: October 18, 2019 03:38 AM