The police are supposed to keep our streets safer but recent reports have suggested that police recruits are being allowed to work without sufficient training in basic safety procedures and the lawful use of firearms. It has been suggested that widespread bullying and abuse at the NSW Police Academy at Goulburn is also jeopardising the quality of training for junior police officers and leading to alarming gaps in their knowledge, especially when it comes to using firearms and tasers.
New curriculum lacking
According to teachers at the police academy, a new curriculum was introduced earlier this year in a move that was largely political. This curriculum is believed to have a number of glaring deficits in it that have led to police recruits graduating without the skills and legal knowledge they need to carry out their duties safely. One report by a firearms trainer alleged that recruits had attended a tactical operations scenario class towards the end of their course without any knowledge of the legal requirements for using guns or tasers.
The main concerns raised by these reports are that new NSW police officers may not be able to carry out their duties safely and lawfully, and that this could impact the safety of the community as a whole. If the problems with the NSW teaching course continue, these issues may only get worse.
There have been a several incidents across Australia over the last year where police have been accused of using weapons incorrectly to the detriment of public safety.
Police use of firearms questioned across Australia
There have already been a number of concerns raised about police use of firearms, especially in Queensland where there have been at least four shooting deaths by police officers in the last two months. The most recent death was that of a 32-year-old mentally ill man who was shot in the driveway of his mother’s home. His mother had called the police after her son had threatened her and demanded her car keys. The man was unarmed at the time and was believed to have the mental capacity of a 13-year-old.
An investigation into the deaths is due to take place internally and will focus on reviewing training and other policies in the Queensland police force. Another investigation has been requested by the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission, which will take a comprehensive look at police shootings in the state, and why they are occurring with such frequency.
Police need more firearms training, not less
More training for police officers has been highlighted as a potential way to reduce or prevent the number of fatal shootings committed by police officers.
In addition to this, it’s believed that police could benefit from more training and awareness about mental health issues, non-violent means of intervention, and conflict resolution.
If the training that officers receive now isn’t sufficient, the number of these deaths could potentially increase in the future. When it comes to the use of firearms and tasers, more training not less seems to be required to ensure public safety.
How many fatal shootings are police involved in across the country?
A report released in 2013 by the Australian Institute of Criminology revealed that between 1989 and 2011, police shot 105 people fatally. Out of those people, almost half were suffering from a mental illness at the time. The study also revealed that out of the total number of shootings, only 32% of the victims were in possession of a firearm at the time. This means that the remainder were either armed with a knife or other weapon or were completely unarmed at the time they were shot.
The idea that police recruits in NSW are not properly trained to use firearms is extremely concerning, especially considering the number of police gun deaths that occur in Australia each year. It seems clear that police should have more training, especially around the different scenarios they may encounter, and when it is appropriate to use a firearm or other weapon, and when other strategies would be more appropriate.
Reports have stated that there is currently a review underway at the School of Policing Studies in Goulburn, to assess workplace culture, health and safety. Charles Sturt University has expressed confidence that the findings of the review will support the university’s assertion that the issues with the teaching program have been resolved and there is no bullying or harassment present at the school.