Use of Force Report explores options

Use of Force Report explores options

National News

An internal report into police training, policy and practice around use of lethal and non lethal force has been completed, with a number of recommendations now being worked through.

Detective Superintendent Peter Marshall, OoC, prepared the report in conjunction with Assistant Commissioner Ray Shuey of the Victoria Police. Assistant Commissioner Shuey was the leader of the Victoria Police's internationally regarded tactical options review, Project Beacon.

The joint report states that "the evaluation undertaken offers a strategic platform upon which to ensure alignment with international best practice and continuous improvement in both the training and operational environment."

The report makes recommendations on where, if necessary, improvements could be made to police tactical options when dealing with critical incidents, in keeping with the underlying philosophy of Maximise Safety, "Minimise Risk"™.

Deputy Commissioner Steve Long, OoC, says the rationale for the report was a low-key, practical "stocktake" of the current New Zealand Police use of force approaches and training, compared against aspects of international critical incident best practice.

"Overall, the report is positive in terms of an analysis of our use of force operational approach, training and guidelines," says Steve.

"The report states that the current training package is consistent with best practice for a progressive, professionally managed police organisation.

"Our main focus now is on looking at each of the report's 14 recommendations and any corresponding implementation issues. In some instances, work is already well under way. Further analysis and consultation around the recommendations will also occur," says Steve.

Superintendent Neville Matthews, National Manager Operations, OoC, will be responsible for overseeing implementation issues where appropriate.

The report's 14 recommendations relate to:

(1) Development of a National Staff Safety Database.
This database is under development with a March/April 2002 implementation proposed. Initially it will commence in Central District and be rolled out district by District over a six month period. The database will be accessed through enterprise computers. Superintendent Steve Hinds, OoC, is responsible for overseeing the database development.

(2) Role of Armed Offender Squads.
This recommendation suggests a potential name change and extending the overall deployment availability, training and equipment options of squads to cater for a range of violent/potentially violent situations. The suggestion of a name change has been discussed with District Commanders, but consensus has not been reached. AOS capability will be increased subject to the findings of Project Lincoln. Project Lincoln is currently at the testing of options phase, after delays in obtaining equipment after the September 11 terrorist attacks on America.

(3) Command Issues/Communication Centres.
This explores the role of Communication Centres in operational deployment. Communication Centre supervisors have been trained and equipped to fulfil a command role in pursuits and other operational matters until field command is established. Once field command is established there is now a formal passing back of command to the District. Work is under way through the National Manager (Operations) to determine whether these principles need to be formalised in new SOPs as formal policy.

(4) Criminal Liability Investigation.
This looks at the role of investigative personnel in instances of death or grievous bodily harm involving police and members of the public. It suggests a CIB Commissioned officer from outside the District should conduct the inquiry at the first available opportunity. The OoC is giving thought to this in terms of logistics - whether this approach should apply in each and every case. Time delay and logistics might suggest there are some less controversial cases which can continue to be investigated within a District. What is important, however, is independent quality analysis of any such investigations. It is envisaged the three regional Detective Superintendents will continue to devote priority to this work.

(5) Critical Incident/ Debriefing.
This addresses timely and formal debriefs in the aftermath of critical incidents. A number of principles around critical incidents need to be established. These are likely to include:
a) Ensuring as much information as possible is made public subject to the overall requirements of the inquiry.
b) Extracting information to inform the Commissioner as quickly as possible as to what appears to be in accordance with policy and what might point to systemic problems.
c) Commencing an early debrief of staff in accordance with the trauma policy.
d) Having the Police Complaints Authority and a senior member of Police attend.
e) It is also intended that the role of Detective Superintendents in such situations will be important in providing analysis.

(6) Staff Safety Tactical Training and District Accountability.
This promotes the concept of attendance and certification around Staff Safety Tactical Training and trainer accreditation. Staff Safety Tactical Training is the cornerstone of our Use of Force policy. New Zealand Police now have more staff safety training than ever before and our efforts speak for themselves. For a service of 7000 sworn members there are relatively few injuries to either officers or the public. Our international standing is confirmed in the eyes of Ray Shuey (co-author of this report), considered a leading expert on such matters. Current action is around fine tuning the programme and reinforcing the importance of staff undertaking the training and any remedial training in a timely fashion on a regular basis. District Commanders are accountable for ensuring their staff comply with the training requirements.

(7) Training and Certification.
This looks at the training for use of batons, O/C spray and firearms. More emphasis is being put on training and appropriate certification.

(8) Less than Lethal Options.
This suggests looking at additional or alternative less than lethal options. The concept of regular Less than Lethal Force option reviews is acknowledged. Project Lincoln's trials of options was delayed by the events of 11 September, slowing down the importation of equipment for testing. This work is now underway and the project will proceed to conclusion in the New Year.

(9) Policies, procedures and guidelines.
This addresses consistency and simplicity around policy procedures and guidelines for operational safety. The need for clear and simple policies with detail, explanation and micro management being placed in training manuals, is accepted and is being adopted through the work of the Training and Development Service Centre and the Operations Group. Mr Shuey critiques current firearms General Instructions. However, it is noted that these GIs are based on New Zealand law and have stood the test of time. A minor amendment may be required to ensure that if warning shots are used then it is absolutely clear how they are to be used.

(10) First Aid Kits.
This suggests District Commanders be responsible for ensuring all operational vehicles contain appropriate first aid equipment and first aid training obligations are met. This will be passed to Internal Audit via the Operations Group to ensure all Police vehicles are equipped with first aid kits and are audited for such equipment.

(11) Lethal Force Breath/Blood testing procedures.
This recommendation considers breath and/or blood testing for staff involved in lethal or potentially lethal force, as routinely occurs with many overseas law enforcement jurisdictions. Logistical work will be undertaken regarding its implementation. It will be helpful to police members and the public if there is a clear understanding around the requirement for sobriety checks, particularly after critical incidents, where speculation could arise. The Service organisations will be consulted on development of any policy on this initiative.

(12) Side-handle and ASP batons.
This relates to carriage and certification of these batons by all operational staff. At the time of the introduction of ASP batons the side-handle batons were withdrawn from regular use. Use, subject to certification, was to be at the discretion of District Commanders. Subsequent experience is that there is inconsistency of approach around the country. The ASPs are not suitable in every situation. The Executive now needs to re-examine whether side-handle batons should be routinely reissued and training incorporated as part of Staff Safety Tactical Training.

(13) Carotid Hold.
This recommendation proposes reviewing the suitability of this practice. The carotid hold has been used in New Zealand without significant problems and has been subject to medical reviews. While the hold is approved for use in the USA and Canada, it is not used in any of the Australian police services. Use of the carotid hold will be looked at again.

(14) Glock Pistols.
This recommendation relates to the deployment of Glock firearms relative to other firearms. The limitations of 9mm ammunition are acknowledged and the appropriate type of weaponry will be kept under ongoing review. A national audit on the number, type and distribution of firearms has been carried out and is on the work programme to be repeated. Districts have been reminded of the need to deploy .223 Remington rifles in conjunction with and in support of Glocks. This reminder will be repeated.

The full Shuey Report is available here in PDF format. [302KB, 34 pages]