Support strong for all police to be armed

All police should carry guns, almost 60 per cent of the public and more than 70 per cent of officers believe, a poll shows.

Police Minister Judith Collins said this week that she would support all patrol vehicles carrying pistols in lockboxes. Police Commissioner Howard Broad is preparing a report into arming police officers and will make recommendations at the end of the year. Both have said they don't favour beat officers routinely being armed.

Last night the Police Association issued a poll it commissioned which said 72 per cent of all association members supported general arming. Asked if they supported it two years ago, 47 per cent were in favour.

The survey showed 58 per cent of the public also supported general arming. Association president Greg O'Connor said the results were no surprise.

The association, holding its 75th annual conference in Wellington this week, endorsed a motion "to support general arming of all sworn New Zealand police officers".

Mr O'Connor said his members had not come to the decision lightly. Guns in lockboxes was a good first step, "but ultimately it will not be enough".

"We are aware it is a major step for New Zealand Police. However, we believe changes in the criminality facing police today means general arming has now become an inevitability.

"We must not wait for a Cumbria-style massacre, where unarmed police are forced to look on, powerless to intervene, while members of the public or police are shot."

He said the survey showed police and public believed the status quo was not an option.

The Nielsen research company also polled support on other options for arming. Of association members, 95 per cent said they would support firearms being carried in every frontline police vehicle and 88 per cent said they would support permanent carriage of firearms by sergeants and senior sergeants.

The survey was conducted online during three weeks in August and polled 6306 members who completed a survey questionnaire. Results for the general public were obtained in a Nielsen survey of 705 people with a margin of error of 3.7 per cent.

Labour deputy leader Annette King said she would be "very concerned" if it was a first step towards fully arming the force.

Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell said Ms Collins had "jumped the gun" before police had completed their report.

The Dominion Post