Month: May 2024



On May 9, I arrive at the RNZPC bright and early to be greeted by Insp. Derek SARNEY, who was proven to be a gracious and knowledgeable host. He gave me a tour of the college complete with defensive tactics, gun range, scenario village, etc. I was impressed with the sim village as it was brand new ($12 million) boasting several multi-level houses, all wired for video and feeding to a control room.  In my view, videotaping scenarios is a real bonus to complete the learning experience. Some details are obviously lost in the moment, so feedback is less impactful compared to the ability to debrief a scenario using video playback. The interior walls look like painted gyprock, but are actually made of plywood, making for a durable set. Even the thinly carpeted floors have a drain in them making for easier and complete clean-ups (especially when medical scenarios involving fluids are used). The doors and windows consist of break-away openings that can be repeatedly hammered in and reset during forced-entry practice, which is very useful.

Team Leader, J.K. KORENT, kindly took over my tour. An older simpler scenario room had a mezzanine surrounding the action area for unintrusive viewing, and other rooms were also available for gentler (less destructive) scenarios. A large range with at least 20 shooting bays was available for training use (they do not carry guns, rather Glock 17s and rifles come with their patrol vehicles). Vehicles can be driven into the range building to practice Code V road stops. The spacious central gym used puzzle mats that need frequent placement and packing up. There were other padded rooms in use for defensive tactics and Taser training they are currently transitioning to the Taser 10 (as with Brisbane police).

I met A/Supervisor Darryl HIGGS, and later, unsworn members Sarah THOMAS and Luke WAHREN. This latter trainer took me for lunch and we had a great discussion about use-of-force training, which turned into a technique-sharing session on mats located in one corner of their office. I like the fact that they could “throw down” and otherwise workshop ideas as they arose. Luke was very interested in the twistlock, so hopefully it will work itself into their curriculum which is currently under review.

Luke testing out the twistlock on me.

I enjoyed watching their team tactics in making physical arrests. They tended to make “seatbelt” and body lock types of takedowns, rather than judo-style ones. Indeed, there are more than one way to skin a cat. Surprisingly, they still were teaching striking techniques (punching, kneeing, etc.) to create space, whereas other agencies tend to steer clear of these kinds of techniques, given their optically negative association with “police brutality”. The NZ officers are not immune to public and political pressure though (e.g., they do not teach neck restraints), but there seems to be fewer constraints on the kinds of force that are not generally palatable to the public these days.

Putting through 600-800 recruits a year helps to replace 500 officers per year they lose through attrition. There are upwards of 16,000 staff members (a sizeable portion are admin members). I was surprised to learn that they hire recruits in the 18-55 year age range! Their fitness standards, like others, are relatively lax, as they too are drawing from a small recruiting puddle. Their academy time was recently increased from 16 weeks to 20 weeks, with but a single week of practicum experience (Week 16). The recruits receive 48 defensive tactics sessions that are of 100 minutes duration each. These classes are interspersed with their academic studies, giving them time to assimilate these physical skills with theory. The class sizes are small (20) with at least two instructors overseeing these classes. About half of the instructors are unsworn members and have varied backgrounds and skill sets. On top of the recruit training, the in-service members receive at least 3 training days per year (PITT: Police Integrated Tactical Training), so the instructors are busy indeed.

After two days at this fine facility, Insp. SARNEY kindly sets me up with a visit to the in-service training being done in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland. I eagerly await to hear from my contact there, James PLATT as I hit the road for the north part of the island.


New Zealand Road Trip

New Zealand Road Trip

Glacial blue waters of Lake Tekapo at their best!

Having departed Australia on April 29, 2024 (by plane from Sydney), I landed in Auckland, on the North Island of New Zealand, where I rented a small car. My contact with the RNZPC, Insp. Derek SARNEY, was very accommodating and he suggested that there would be more to see if I came by the police college on following week, so I did a quick run down south to Wellington. There were some amazing views to take in en route such as geothermal spots (Craters of the Moon National Park, Lake Taupo, etc.). I barrel through a flat expanse of semi-desert and I managed to get a souvenir from a road patrol officer for speeding. Fair enough. Though he was informed of my quest, it should not have included speeding (and I am no longer a police officer and worthy of “professional courtesy”), so I appeased the nearly-retired officer (who was very apologetic for issuing me a $400.00 coupon) by acknowledging that I deserved it. I paid it online a few days later. My bad.

I caught the 3-hour ferry from Wellington to Picton (on the South Island) and then scooted down the magnificent west coast. The mountains and ocean reminded how similar my home province of British Columbia was to New Zealand, especially as I passed three towns in a row on a 30km stretch of Highway 6 named Nelson, Richmond, and Hope, all of which have namesakes in BC (but not in that order). After driving through gorgeous vineyards, the coast leading south proved to be a beautiful drive also. This twisting highway (rife with roadkill possums!) skirted me between the shore, farmland and the “Southern Alps”, through the lovely town of Wanaka where I cut across SE to Dunedin (on the east coast). I meet a fantastic couple, Dave and Lesley HOWARD, that fellow Oddsquadder, Chris Graham, set me up with. It was great to talk to people that I now consider to be friends. Life on the road can be quite lonely…

After staying the night with the HOWARDs, I started up the east coast, going inland towards the mountains to take in the two spectacular lakes of Pukaki and Tekapo, with their light-blue glacial waters, then I boot back over to the east coast, around Christchurch, and back up to to Picton to catch the late ferry over to Wellington. I find a some great places to sleep as I visit the police college starting on May 8th.

Great hosts for a wayward and lonely Canadian, Sunday, May 5, 2024.





After my wonderful visit with the Melbourne training crew, I make the 1,800 km drive (18 hours) up the east coast of Australia to Brisbane in the state of Queensland. I overnighted in Holbrook (a quiet farming town sporting a submarine!) and then to the surfing paradise of Newcastle. On April 15, I make my debut at this police academy, meeting  Sgt. Jimmy DONNELLY at their training facility in Wacol. They put recruits (600-900 annually) through a 32-week program. A recent election promise was poised to add many hundreds recruits by the year 2025, but to date only a few have been hired.

Like Melbourne, they use use-of-force data to help direct their training, as gleaned from mandatory reported data and body-worn cameras. They also acknowledge the terrible physical fitness state the recruits are in. Many could not even scale a 1.8 m. fence and only a 5.7 was required on the Beep Test (something I am sure I could do running backwards at age 71). No fitness classes are in the curriculum, but more than 40 hours of drill is deemed necessary. A degree of box ticking without failing them is suggested in order to churn as many recruits out as possible. With a police force strength of 12,500, there is a battle to replace those lost at an annual rate of attrition of 5.8%.

All of the defensive tactics training is done after the first 16 weeks of academic training – as a single block!  It is an acknowledged “pump and dump” way of teaching, but this type of intensive training is seen as a cost-saving measure in terms of working out curriculum date-planning. There is no practicum built in their academy training, rather there are 8 weeks of this upon graduation. Often they are paired with senior field trainers afterwards. Remote postings may require some additional training, as would the specialty squads.

No role players are used in their simulations, so the physical contact is kept to a minimum to keep injury rates low (especially on the older instructors acting out the roles as arrestees). The recruits must also complete a total of 58 on-line sessions that are of minutes to hours in duration with a loose testing system in place.

Some of the trainers are not even police officers as this is viewed, again, as a cost-saving measure. At least these trainers are not involved in creating curriculum. I believe that such development should be left by those who have actually put handcuffs on people in real life. As with other Australian agencies I have visited, none use the twistlock, a technique that is far superior and versatile than any other joint lock that I know of. I have spent that last four decades researching this group of techniques. I challenge anyone to show me a more practical, tactically effective, and ethically superior technique than that of the double twistlock. This technique will catch on (I will write a book just on this series of techniques alone).

I really do like the “wrist weave” shown to me for escorting and even taking down an arrestee (taken from the popular ISR Matrix program – Intercept, Stabilize, Resolve) which is essentially a forward Figure-4 technique. It is very useful when done as a partnership tactic (see for this technique).

And speaking of  team tactics, they do practice them using two to four officers to deal with solo miscreants. They use simple takedowns like the “easy chair” whereby the arrestee’s arms are controlled by two officers (without resorting to wristlocks as with the wrist weave) and the legs are essentially grabbed by the third officer (the fourth officer must stay out of the fray to provide a critical cover role).

Handcuffing is done with hinged cuffs (for the past two decades). No knees on the back are allowed, so a modified three-point prone cuffing is used by having the officer put one knee across the waistband and the other on the ground while a bent armlock is applied. Solo officer takedowns do not seem to be a high priority training goal, and given the limited training time available and that fact that they usually work in pairs, this seems to be reasonable. Officers are allowed to use OC spray (and on themselves voluntarily at a rate of 60% compliance). The Taser is now used more sparingly due to critical reviews by groups like Amnesty International who are bent on stripping these “torture” devices out of the hands of the police (even recruits cannot consent to something that is tantamount to “torture”). They were using the very old Taser X26P, but now they are becoming the first state in Australia to roll out the new Taser 10. It was interesting to watch these singly-fired barbs (at 205-235 ft/sec.) being shot from up to 12 m. away. One shot to each thigh and you can guess what dangly bits the current may pass to complete the circuit! The voltage was dropped way down to 900 volts (from a purported 50,000 volts), while keeping the amperage very low, but the cycle rate was doubled from 22 to 44 pulses/second to keep it as an effective means of dropping an arrestee.

In 2018, lateral vascular neck restraint (LVNR) was taken out of their curriculum due to two unfortunate deaths that were associated to “chokeholds”. They too, do two-day update/recertification training days (6,000 annually). This includes topics like Tactical First Aid (emergency medical training such as wound packing, chest sealing, tourniquet applications, etc.). According to Insp. Anthony BUXTON, a $52.8 million “skills training building” was created in 2020 that is quite advanced (simulation control room, two large indoor ranges, etc.). There are usually 5 deadly police shootings annually, but there have been 16 in recent times due to an increase in the numbers of mentally ill people being addressed on the street. Keep those Tasers handy!

Both Insp. Steve EVANS from the AFP and Insp. BUXTON asked Sgt. Derek SARNEY from the Royal New Zealand Police College to entertain the prospect of hosting me in the next few weeks, so I await his response. In the meantime, I will fly to Auckland to tour the North and South Islands.



After  7-hour drive from Canberra, I arrive in Melbourne and stay at the Gateway on Monash Motel. On Monday, April, 8, 2024 at 0700 hours, I arrive at the front gate of the Victoria Police Academy. This fine institution is in the Melbourne suburb of Glen Waverley. Inspector Mel NIXON and A/Sen. Sgt. Mirsad HODZIC greeted me warmly and walked me into their security area, which I do remember from 1986, so magnificent it is. Just past this checkpoint is an elaborate hall (a church really – this was a convent) and then they showed me their Monday morning outdoors parade consisting of 700 hundred recruits! Their walk onto the parade square in a seemingly endless stream, complete with fife and drum, was truly a treat to behold!

The force has over 16,000 officers.  To train all of these recruits is one thing, but bringing the serving members back in twice annually for a day of training updates (based on their use of force reports and data gleaned from their use of body-worn cameras since 2019) is very remarkable. Sgt. Bob MASLEN toured me around their facility which has gun ranges, Taser rooms, and modular rooms for ERT style training (room entries). They sport a 20-year-old outdoor “scenario village” which has a number of buildings found in any metropolitan area (pub, houses, and even a train station).

A new one was built indoors in Craigieburn (more than an hour away – but it was well worth the drive!) in 2015 at a cost of $32 million. The entire village cab be electronically shuttered to create a nocturnal environment, and it can even then be lit up in a variety of ways. The only such facility more impressive than that I have ever seen was the one that our Police Judo instructors witnessed at the Beijing People’s Police College a few year back. It was HUGE!

This Victoria Police Academy has a recruit training program of  31 weeks duration. After week 13, they learn office duties for 5 weeks followed by a few weeks in the the street (and later in the paddy wagon with two other members). I like that they film some of their training sims for debriefing later. The recruits are required to debrief the instructors with the usual “What did you see, what did you do, and why did you do it?” type of fashion – but with video playbacks being used to tighten up the learning process.

They had some cool equipment ranging from air pressure sim guns, shock vests (to sting when correctly targeted), etc. There are several “soft floor” rooms where blue-matted rooms facilitate defensive tactics training. Our own JIBC has just completed the installation of a “sprung” floor (metal coils under 2 layers of plywood, all which is under the usual matted surfaces found in most training halls). I imagine that there would have to be some major money here to train recruits (and in-service members) in these numbers. As with many agencies, fitness standards have become an afterthought, given that the recruiting pool now has no deep end.

They recruits are on probation for 2 years and all patrols are “2-up” meaning they always work in partnerships at the constable level. There have been a lot of car jackings, home invasions (many by groups of new, young, immigrants). Outlaw motorcycle gangs prefer the lax “anti-bikie” laws here, so there are many to contend with. There has been push back (for political reasons?) for Taser use (now using Taser-7), pressure point use, kneeling on the back types of uses of force. “Pain compliance” is now a dirty term.

A/Sen. Sgt. Chris DOUGHTY and Sen. Sgt. Bernie JENKINS were great contacts on the defensive tactics side of things. They showed a good deal of interest in my use-of-force study and in Police Judo. They say that “pushing” kinds of assaults outnumber the number of incidents of officers being struck, by a factor of five, but they also recognize that being on the ground with an arrestee should be avoided where possible.

I sat in on an Armed Active Offender class led by Craig BLUMERIS. He kindly gave me a few minutes to tell his class about my mission. His lesson to the class must have increased in importance and relevance because only a few short days later, as I was driving past Sydney to go to the police academy in Brisbane, there was a mass killing by a knife-wielding man at a mall at Bondi Junction. he was appropriately and solely dispatched by Insp. Amy SCOTT, the first police officer at the scene. That was a job very well done to take out a person who targeted mostly women (he killed 6 people  and hospitalized a dozen more).

I take a three days to drive the 1,800 kms to Brisbane while listening to the non-stop reporting of this tragedy and reflect more on my mission to make policing safer for all.