Line Of Fire Premiere

8:30pm Monday, November 2 on TV One

TV ONE’s new local three-part series, Line Of Fire, takes viewers into the secretive world of the New Zealand Police Armed Offenders Squad (AOS), tonight at 8.30pm. Most Kiwis will only see the Armed Offenders Squad at a distance or on TV – and will be thankful for that. This elite squad is only called out in worst-case scenarios, and New Zealand is fortunately free of the high-level of violent crime found elsewhere in the world.

Or is it? Since 2005 the AOS have attended more than 600 incidents nationwide every year – and in the past year the number has leapt to more than 750. The squad is a barometer of public safety, and the black suits are coming out more and more these days.

How has violent crime changed in the 45 years since the inception of the Armed Offenders Squad – and how have the ways in which the squad has been deployed changed? This series sees the untold stories behind some of the key moments in New Zealand’s war on crime, as told by the elite police officers that selflessly put themselves in the Line Of Fire.

Episode one looks at the ‘Rules of Engagement’. The teething years for such a unique squad as the AOS were never going to be simple. By definition they exist to confront people who have no respect for the law, and yet the AOS still need to comply with the law. With many quiet, ground-breaking successes, the early AOS were virtuosos in ingenuity, but still simply policemen, who at times felt tremendous fear.

Providing insight as to why the controversial squad was formed and why New Zealand resisted the arming of the police force, this episode examines the rudimentary gear, early training, the ‘fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants’ attitude, and deals with the first fatal shootings by the AOS.

Bruce Glensor had taken hostages and threatened police officers when he was the first man fatally shot by the AOS. As Line Of Fire reveals, this created a wild stir of emotion with regard to why they hadn’t shot to wound and what exactly were the fire orders.

Interviewees recall being in that moment – deciding to shoot, or not to shoot. Former AOS member Graeme Wilkes was face-to-face with the armed man, Glensor: “We were on a grass verge, there was a few trees and we had 30 metres clear view of him, and he pulled the pistol out and turned around to a dog handler who was advancing on him, and said ‘I’m going to shoot you too’, and as he swung out and aimed the pistol, we both went down in a kneeling position, and he was quicker than I was. Glensor hit the ground and that was it.”

Later in the early 1970’s the AOS were sent bush, this time to track a convicted killer. This story was pivotal in securing the presence of the dog section in the squad. Negotiation or voice appeal quickly became an essential part of the AOS tool kit too.

In 1975, after so many unspoken successes, the AOS were forced to take another life and public debate again raged. Robert Moodie – then the head of the Police Association, later a prominent lawyer – went to bat for the AOS officers, coining a phrase that would make international headlines and remains at the core of operations to this day.

Moodie wrote that members of the AOS “shoot not to wound, not to kill, but simply to achieve the instantaneous and complete elimination of the offender’s capacity to kill or seriously injure others”.

Episode one of Line Of Fire shows the subtle complications of the AOS’s work, and the very real, inevitable fear felt by squad members – not to mention their families at home.

Subscribe to our mailing list

About the author