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 isrmatrixonline.com 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.

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