NZ disarms police as terrorism threat level lowers

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New Zealand police on Wednesday ended the routine arming of frontline officers as the terrorism threat level was lowered a month after the Christchurch mosques massacre.

Police and security agencies reduced the threat level from high to medium, meaning authorities judge that another attack, violent criminal behaviour, or violent protest remains “feasible” rather than “very likely”.

The level is still higher than it was before the March 15 attacks, when the threat was deemed to be “low”.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said “there is no current specific threat” but the security agencies believed the medium level “accurately reflects our current status”.

Frontline New Zealand police have historically not carried firearms and many people were shocked to see them heavily armed after 50 people were gunned down while at Friday prayers.

Police commissioner Mike Bush said with the easing of the security threat level, the police had reassessed their position on arming frontline staff and the carrying of weapons would now be decided on a case-by-case basis.

The decision was made after “significant consultation” with mosques and Islamic Centres in relation to ongoing security, although Bush said he would not release details.

“There was never any intention for the routine carriage of firearms to continue indefinitely,” Bush said.

“Generally this means frontline staff will transition back to our normal approach regarding carriage and access to firearms.”

The police also released a timeline of the mosque attacks, showing it took 18 minutes from the time of the first emergency call to the apprehension of the alleged shooter.

A 28-year-old Australian, Brenton Tarrant, a self-avowed white supremacist, faces 50 murder charges and 39 of attempted murder over the attack.