What is a critical incident investigation in New South Wales? – Criminal law

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A critical incident investigation was launched after police gunned down a 45-year-old indigenous man at his aunt’s home in northwest Sydney.

Police said four officers attended the Seven Hills home at around 11:20 am to execute an arrest warrant, when a “physical confrontation” occurred.

Police say the man approached them inside the house with a knife and ax, before the police fired “several shots”.

The man collapsed and could not be resuscitated.

When is a critical incident investigation initiated?

A critical incident investigation is initiated by the NSW Police whenever a police operation results in the death or serious injury to a person in our state.

The role of LECC

The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) is supposed to oversee these investigations from start to finish, which aims to assure the public that these investigations – in which the police primarily investigate the police – are conducted in a thorough, competent and objective manner.

However, the LECC has extremely limited resources and no disciplinary power, let alone prosecute offending officers.

For these reasons, the organization has been labeled a “toothless tiger” and, after recent funding cuts, is only able to investigate less than 2% of police complaints and conduct superficial follow-up. police investigations.

What is the purpose of a critical incident investigation?

The purpose and responsibilities of a critical incident investigation are outlined in the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (NSW) Act, 2016.

The law gives the regional police commander the power to define the specific objectives of each critical incident investigation.

Section 113 of the Act requires the Commissioner of Police to ensure that the actions of officers before and during a critical incident are fully and properly investigated, and that reports are provided to the appropriate authorities. afterwards.

The Commissioner must consider, in light of the reports, any need to modify relevant policies, practices and procedures; and any systemic, security or procedural issues arising from the incident and the actions of the police officers.

What does a critical incident investigation look at?

A critical incident investigation examines:

  • the legality and reasonableness of their actions
  • the extent to which they have complied with relevant legislation and policies, practices and procedures
  • any complaints about their conduct that were referred to the higher critical incident

investigator; and,

  • any evidence of misconduct by an officer.

Police shootings are on the increase

Police officers are armed with capsicum spray and tasers, and are expected to use their firearms as a last resort.

However, data from a recent report produced by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) shows that police shootings in Australia are not only on the rise, they are at an all time high.

The report shows that there was a significant increase – almost 80% increase – in fatal police shootings between 2018-19 and 2019-2020.

Police officers in New South Wales have been armed since the early 1970s. In New South Wales, police can “shoot to kill” if there is a terrorist threat. Police officers in New South Wales are also permitted to use “lethal force” against another person where there is a reasonable threat of death or serious injury to the officer, another officer or a member of the public. .

But, as has been pointed out time and time again, it is exceptionally difficult to determine the “reasonableness of a threat”. In high pressure situations, in the heat of the moment, there is no doubt that police officers need to make quick decisions, which cannot always be clearly defined as “good or bad” plans of action.

Military-type police in New South Wales

In recent times, there has been growing concern about the growing “armament” of the New South Wales Police Force, which is now equipped with military-style rifles, a long-range acoustic device used for police purposes. crowd control and dispersal but which can produce sounds loud enough to damage hearing, and riot gear that offers them great protection against an unarmed audience.

There is also a lot of concern about the noticeable shift from community policing to a more force-based model. This has never been more evident than during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the way police responded to protesters.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.


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