The death of Senior Constable Len Snee was deeply felt by police officers of all ranks, all over the country.
Alongside the sorrow caused by a 'death in the family,' it was an acute reminder to all officers that they are vulnerable. Their work frequently takes them to people who are unstable, angry, drunk, drugged or irrational, and to weapons including knives, baseball bats, screwdrivers, chainsaws... recently even a weed-eater.
Our data on risk has been improved under my watch and it shows police frequently deal with people with weapons.
In Len's case, the weapon was a gun. This has, quite rightly, led to public discussion about whether all field officers should be routinely armed.
The majority of commentators say 'no'. That is in line with the public feedback Police received when we consulted on the Policing Act 2008; it's also in line with the sentiments of police officers themselves.
Being unarmed is a unique and cherished feature of the policing style adopted by New Zealand Police - a style for which we are held in high regard internationally.
Routine arming of the police would not erase this style of policing, but it would make the job of being a community police officer considerably more difficult.
I have no doubt that carrying handguns would compromise officers' ability to do their regular work, because when you carry a weapon, your primary concern is to protect that weapon. If this was balanced by a clearly demonstrable increase in personal protection, it would be a price to consider paying. But the protection offered by a firearm - particularly a pistol - is more illusory than real.
The firearms offenders we encounter most in New Zealand are toting hunting rifles, shot guns or cut-down versions of these. A pistol is no match for that sort of fire power. It must be drawn from a holster and sighted before it's fired - precious milliseconds which can be better spent diving for cover.
It's the surprise effect that is most dangerous. In virtual shoot/don't shoot training scenarios where my pistol was up against a rifle, I saw the danger of being surprised by an offender who had made up their mind to shoot.
So our strategies rely on officers' good judgment. They are trained to identify risk and if they encounter an armed situation, to withdraw, cordon and contain until appropriately armed officers can be deployed. If the situation is equivocal, they have arms at ready resort with which to equip themselves.
This tactic has worked very well for over 40 years.
International evidence gives me no cause to think it is outdated. Literature on police experience and practice points to a high risk that officers can have their own weapons turned against them, having been overpowered in otherwise innocent situations.
There is also concern about the number of officers shot because they didn't want to fire their weapons. People tend to join the New Zealand Police because they want to help people, not shoot them. Carrying a weapon is a heavy responsibility. I was obliged to carry a gun for several years as a nightshift detective. It was the one part of my field work where the full range of 'what if' circumstances played on my mind over and over again.
We also have to ask how many officers' lives might have been saved if they were carrying a hand gun. I can think of one - I can also think of two instances where the officer was beaten to death with his own baton.
There are several incremental steps available to Police before we could run out of options and be forced to routinely arm police.
A full roll-out of Taser is on the cards; I'm encouraged that the Prime Minister sees value in pushing along this process.
But while I caution, frequently, that Taser is a good option to use primarily against knives, bats, screwdrivers and so on, it could also have been used in several recent circumstances where police had to draw a gun instead. Tellingly, a Taser was used successfully in recent weeks to apprehend an alleged offender who moved to pull a pistol tucked into his belt. Without a Taser, such an incident may well have resulted in the death of either the offender, a police officer, or both.
So, Taser is a first step in non-lethal options. As technology develops, it will be more effective at long range, and potentially better able to combat armed threats. Ideally, that technology will move faster than any perceived requirement to routinely arm police.
I take no joy in resorting to a weapon such as Taser. But I take much less joy in the prevailing risk to police of violent offenders, and the risk that without Taser, we might have to use guns to stop an offender carrying knives, bats and other such weapons.
There are other models around the world which may work well here. The UK has Armed Response Vehicles (ARVs), where small teams of specially trained officers are permanently on standby to respond to a serious threat. They are not armed officers most of the time, and are able to carry out routine frontline duties, but they have immediate access to firearms from a small, secure armoury in their vehicles and are better trained than our current general staff to handle armed threats.
Some version of this could be useful in areas with a population base and number of incidents to justify it, such as Auckland. It is one option to consider for the future.
New Zealand Police is constantly looking at options to protect our staff. Routine arming will no doubt continue to be discussed and debated but my judgement is that there is no immediate need or prospect to have every frontline officer carrying arms. We police by consent; there will be no hasty decisions in this area.