WelCom July 2020:
Police Commissioner Andy Coster and the abolition of the Armed Response Teams – a principle-based decision.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster announced, 9 June 2020, that Armed Response Teams (ARTs) will not be part of the New Zealand policing model in the future. Lay Pastoral Leader in the Catholic Parish of Wellington South Joe Green comments.
‘In so far as you did this to the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it to me.’Matthew, 25: 39
In scrapping the Armed Response Teams (ART) Andy Coster was not only taking cognisance of the fact that violent offending, homicide and suicide by firearm in Aotearoa New Zealand is statistically low (but no less tragic for those involved), but that a generally armed police service, and ARTs in particular do not, to quote Andy, ‘align with the style of policing New Zealanders expect’.
The New Zealand Police Service is founded on Sir Robert Peel’s policing principles of ethical, community-consented policing. For Andy Coster that means ‘listening and responding to our communities and partnering with them to find solutions that work’. It also means a generally unarmed Police service.
The relatively recent codification of ‘fit and proper’ for firearms licensing purposes, the implementation of firearms prohibition orders, the banning and buy back of certain firearms and the indicative move to general arming of police, parallel overseas approaches to arms control and crime control generally. They include policing styles that do not necessarily have as their basis community consent.
If policing is ‘done’ to the community, it has little chance of enhancing community safety. In the area of firearms control this has resulted in a breakdown in relationship with firearm user groups –despite a community forum being in place. At the same time resources for police educational and preventive activity have been reduced in favour of enforcement.
ARTs were a form of suppressive militaristic policing style. Andy Coster, a devout Christian, knows this style didn’t work in suppressing the Jesus Movement, and it won’t work in addressing crime and violence, which are in reality symptomatic of social deprivation and the need for the empowerment of oppressed populations; the ‘least of (Jesus’) brothers or sisters’, deserving of the freedom that the good news promises.
From 1998 to 2013 Joe Green managed arms control nationally for NZ Police. Joe has a BA (Hons) in sociology, has published research on incidents where one deer hunter shoots another and more recently has researched the unjust colonial acquisition of land from Māori in the Wellington South Parish.