A security expert claims WA police officers will continue to handle terror threats according to their terrorism operations training, despite being given shoot-to-kill powers for unfolding counter-terrorism incidents.
Strike Training Managing Director Gaven Wicks said the legislation was important to enable officers to neutralise terror incidents like the Lindt Café siege, but believed they would not be used often because those types of incidents were “rare”.
“I think they’re needed, given the security issues that we’re facing in the world today. I mean we need to upgrade these types of laws,” Mr Wicks said.
“But out on the street when we talk about terrorist attacks and terrorist incidents, they’re happening at the time and decisions need to be made.”
“We’re talking about declarations being made by the Commissioner which is fine in particular situations, but most of the time when an incident such as a terrorist attack, police will have already responded.”
Mr Wicks, a former New South Wales police officer and investigator who has also been attached to the Prime Minister’s Office during an APEC summit said the laws were designed to help the “decision making process.”
“The commissioner needs to make a decision on that (reasonable suspicion) basis and that’s got to be a fact, it’s got to have a number of facts to do it,” he said.
“If he has those facts, he can then make that declaration. Without those facts, he’s going to be answerable to it.”
He said the laws would not impact young terrorists who might be planning a terror act.
“I don’t think they’ll be affected at all,” Mr Wicks said.
“The only thing I think that would bother them as whether they could get that act off before that occurred. They’re hoping that doesn’t happen.”
WA’s lethal force laws came following criticism of how NSW Police managed the Lindt Café siege in 2014.
Police hesitated in dealing with gunman Man Haron Monis because it was not clear whether he intended to harm hostages.
Police stormed the café after gunshots were heard and Monis as well as two hostages had died.
As a result of the incident, the laws will give police officers greater clarity to deal with a “declared” terrorism incident, giving them more certainty in decision making during an act of terrorism.
Once the police commissioner declares an unfolding situation to be related to terrorism, officers would know they can take pre-emptive action.
The State Government introduced the laws into parliament on Thursday last week.
“Back in 2005, post 9/11 and post Bali, we introduced the first terrorism extraordinary powers bill and gave our police additional powers to use where there was a terrorist incident,” Police Minister Michelle Roberts said.
“We’ve now reviewed those powers in light of the changes have been made in New South Wales after the Lindt Cafe siege.”
“It means now that the police commissioner will be able to form a reasonable belief that it is a terrorist incident and if he declares a terrorist incident, he can authorise officers to use force including lethal force.”
Premier McGowan said the laws were for the physical and legal protection of themselves and the public.
“We want to make sure that our police have the opportunity to use lethal force to protect the public and to protect themselves and they have that clarity,” Mr McGowan said.
However, WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson hoped police officers would not need to use the laws.
“I can state categorically the police do not want to use these powers at all,” he said.
“We obviously want to prevent as much terrorism as we can, we do that through intelligence and with community engagement, but if it is a situation that does require pre-emptive action, these laws that are proposed do provide certainty.”