The Armed Offenders Squad (AOS) is a specialist unit of the New Zealand Police designed to "cordon, contain and appeal to" armed and dangerous offenders. As the name explains, they are called upon when conflict with an armed offender has occurred or is considered imminent.
The AOS draw upon a varied arsenal of weapons and are often seen in heavy body armour. By contrast, most front-line police officers in New Zealand are lightly protected and do not normally carry firearms (see main New Zealand Police article). The establishment of the AOS is an attempt to retain this situation (lightly armed police officers being the standard) and yet retain the ability to deal with offenders too dangerous for measures like pepper spray or a baton.
The AOS was formally started by New Zealand SAS soldier "Shocker Shaw" and Police Inspector Perry in 1964, in response to the deaths of four police officers in two separate incidents - one in Lower Hutt, Wellington and one in Waitakere, Auckland - that involved firearms. The highest-profile AOS intervention to date is most probably their action during the Aramoana massacre on November 13 - November 14, 1990.
Currently, there are 17 squads throughout New Zealand, covering all major population centres. The mission of the AOS is to provide Police with a means of effectively and safely responding to and resolving situations in which there is a risk of firearms or similarly dangerous weapons being involved, and when weapons are directed against either members of the public, or the Police service. The AOS is comprised entirely of volunteers, who must have passed a national selection and training course, with further, localised training given on a district level. They are part time, come from all branches of the New Zealand Police, and operate on a call out basis. According to official figures, AOS units attended 533 incidents nationwide in the year 1998/99.
Members of the AOS are eligible for selection into the Special Tactics Group (STG) the full time elite anti-terrorist unit of the New Zealand Police. This unit trains together with the New Zealand Special Air Service (NZSAS) however only limited information on it is released by the New Zealand Police.
The AOS is supported by Police Negotiation Teams and canine units specifically trained for use in situations involving firearms. Nationwide, there are 17 Police Negotiation Teams, with each AOS having a dedicated team attached to it. Similar to the AOS units themselves, the negotiators are all part time volunteers.
All AOS members are volunteers drawn from the New Zealand Police. They must complete highly rigorous training, and applications are carefully screened. An officer must have served at least three years after their graduation from the Police College before being eligible for membership.
Posting to the AOS is not a full-time duty, and members are officially members of other branches such as the Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB) or general duties. In the event of an incident requiring AOS attendance, the on-duty officers will be paged by the communications centre. They then assemble at their base, to draw arms and get other equipment, before responding the scene.
In keeping with the weapons available to front-line officers, the AOS are issued with Glock 17 pistols and Bushmaster M4A3 carbines. Other weapons include pump-action shotguns and the HK 79 granade launcher for delivery of tear gas.
When responding to incidents, or executing planned operations, AOS officers utilise both standard marked and unmarked cars, and large four-wheel drive vehicles, such as the Nissan Patrol. These are fitted with running boards and roof rails, to allow officers to stand on the side while the vehicle is in motion, as well as having enclosed boxes on the roof for carrying equipment.
Rifle pointedA paint ball rifle sparked an armed offenders squad callout in Mt Maunganui yesterday. Police were called by a woman checking on tenan...
Apr 20, 2008; Rifle pointedA paint ball rifle sparked an armed offenders squad callout in Mt Maunganui yesterday. Police were called by a woman...