Police Minister Stuart Nash told Stuff that arming police is “not his call”, because it was an “operational matter”. The Police Commissioner is responsible for decisions about whether to arm Police, which he did after the Christchurch racist terrorist attack.
However, section 16 of the Policing Act 2008 states that the Police Commissioner is responsible to the Minister, except for certain defined circumstances.
Deciding to begin routine armed police patrols is a serious strategic decision, not a mere operational matter. It goes beyond the Minister “[giving] police the resources they need to their job”. A fundamental shift like this towards armed, militarised policing is inherently a political decision.
Arming police is highly likely to have very serious human rights implications – especially on people of colour and tangata whenua in particular. International data shows a correlation between the number of armed police and the number of people wrongly shot and killed by police. As Emily Rākete argues:
None of the available evidence suggests there’s a worsening crisis of violence against police that only more guns can solve. Instead, New Zealand is in the midst of a crisis of violence perpetrated by the police. The police have shot and killed more people in the last 20 years than in the 80 years before that. Māori are almost eight times more likely than Pākehā to be subjected to police violence. One in ten people who have force used on them by police are suicidal or in mental distress.
Minister Nash is the responsible Minister. The Police Commissioner reports to him. As such, there is no reason why the Minister cannot request that the Commissioner at least fully account for and explain this decision – or reverse it.