Armed Offenders Squads (AOS) were first established in 1964, after the fatal shooting
of four police officers in incidents in Lower Hutt and Waitakere. There are now 17 squads, covering all main centres.
NZ Police is essentially an unarmed service, and there is determination both within Police and in the public to keep it that way. But the AOS provides Police with the means of effectively and more safely responding to and resolving situations in which there is an actual or threatened use of firearms or other weapons against members of the public or Police.
The basic methods of operating have not changed - that is to cordon, contain and appeal to armed offenders.
These tactics are successful in the vast majority of incidents, which are resolved
without the use of force. The AOS is also used for some pre-planned operations where there is a high risk, for example large cash escorts, or assisting other Police with search warrants.
The squads are supported by negotiation teams and specially trained police dogs and handlers.
AOS members are all volunteers. They must qualify at a rigorous national selection and
induction course, and receive regular additional training in their districts. They are part-time, drawn from all branches of the Police, and operate on a call-out basis.
AOS attended 533 incidents nationwide in the 1998/99 year.
Police Negotiation Teams
There are 17 Police Negotiation Teams (PNT), each is attached to an AOS. Like AOS, police negotiators are part-time
volunteers who are drawn from all areas of police work.
Police negotiators are specially trained in psychology and crisis intervention techniques. Most of their call-outs are to AOS incidents, with the vast majority being resolved peacefully with the suspects coming out at the request of the PNT. Negotiators may also be required to respond to a range of other situations, from threatened suicides to high-risk hostage situations.
In the 1998/99 year, PNT responded to 330 incidents.