Critical incidents are those cases where serious injury or death is caused to a civilian or a police officer in the course of a police operation. Police can also declare other incidents as “critical incidents” if it is determined there is public interest in such a declaration. In all cases the primary investigation is undertaken by the police themselves.
The answers to questions in Parliament show that from 1 January 2013 to 24 August 2015 a total of 62 critical incidents involving NSW Police only 2 adverse findings were made, and there were no disciplinary actions at all against involved officers. In February this year a NSW Upper House Committee called for the establishment of a single, well resourced and independent police oversight body. A further report on police oversight by former Liberal shadow AG Andrew Tink delivered to government in August is yet to be released.
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|Critical incidents investigated||22||24||16|
The 62 critical incidents reviewed in this period included:
- January 2013 – A man running away from a taxi was pursued by the police into a river where he drowned
- May 2013 – a police pursuit following reports of the theft of money from a ticket machine resulted in a head first crash into a tree which killed the driver and serious injured his passenger
- February 2014 – a police pursuit of a front end loader in country NSW at 45 km/h which included officers shooting at the vehicle
- January 2015 the death of a 17 month old child following the police pursuit of a woman wanted on a number of warrants related to drug offences
- A number of further incidents involved police car chases where drivers and/or passengers were killed or injured including in July 2013 in Marrickville, October 2014 in Ingleburn and May 2015 in Cootamundra.
Greens MP and Police Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
“Sixty two critical incident investigations and not a single instance of disciplinary action means either one of two things, we have a police force staffed by angels or the oversight system is failing. I don’t believe in angels.
“It’s time that police stopped investigating police, especially in these most serious cases of death or serious injury.
“It is unfair to require serving police to investigate other police, this puts them in a clear position of conflict of interest.
“When a member of the public, or a grieving family, is demanding answers about a death or serious injury during police operations that answer should come from someone totally independent of police.
“Police deserve a robust, independent and timely oversight system so that when they are cleared of wrongdoing that’s the end of it.
“Because the current oversight system has so little independence and so much delay, cases drag on for years and even when an officer is cleared, doubts still linger.
“It is well and truly time we had an independent body to investigate police complaints.
“Everyone, the public and police, deserve far better than the present system delivers for them, Mr Shoebridge said.