Arms Expert Decries 'Roll of the Dice' In Police Raids
September 18, 2010
THE death of the police officer Bill Crews from a bullet fired by a
colleague was a tragedy that should have been avoided, says one of the
world's leading experts on police shootings.
Tom Aveni, an American firearms expert who has spent time in NSW training
police instructors, believes the highly skilled tactical operations unit
should have been involved in the raid on the suspected drug dealer Philip
Nguyen, which led to Constable Crews's death.
He also described as a ''roll of the dice'' an incident where officers with
only basic firearms training were put in such a dangerous situation.
"Unfortunately this death was something that could and should have been
avoided," Mr Aveni said.
His comments come as the NSW Police critical incident investigation team
begins to examine the circumstances of the constable's death. The Herald
understands the firearms training given to recruits and weapons testing of
officers will automatically play a significant part of that inquiry.
Mr Aveni insists the tactical operations unit needs to be more involved in
routine police work, such as the completion of search and arrest warrants,
and that Mr Nguyen should have been considered a high risk. Court documents
show that he had served time in jail for serious drug offences.
''In America we use a tactical operation unit when there's an expectation
the person you are going to arrest represents a higher occupational risk,''
Mr Aveni said. ''That doesn't necessarily mean you know the person is
dangerous or armed, but you believe there may be a history of violence, a
hatred of police or that a rearrest could see them going back to prison for
a long time because of their previous criminal history.''
At present NSW's tactical operations unit consists of 75 officers based in
central Sydney who provide rapid response teams around the clock. The unit
responds to situations deemed high risk because of the presence of firearms
or the anticipation of high levels of violence.
Mr Aveni, who has been a police firearms trainer in the US since 1983 and
now specialises in investigating ''questionable'' police shootings, said
weapons instructors in NSW were ''among the best in the world'' but that
basic training cannot prepare police for all situations.
''The problem is when you go to the academies for two-week basic training,
what you're given is just a foundation and everything thereafter is a
''Teaching somebody to shoot at a paper target on a well lit range is pretty
easy; teaching somebody to shoot at a target that is moving, shooting back
and perhaps in low light is a very different and more difficult scenario.
''To take an officer off the street or a detective to put him in situation
like that without additional specialised training is simply a roll of the
''Most of the time you'll get away with it because the bad guy is taken by
surprise or didn't have intestinal fortitude to fire, but all it takes is
one unlucky break and something like this is bound to happen.''
At present police recruits are required to have 50 hours' training with the
semi-automatic Glock .40 pistol. Once qualified they are required to have
mandatory live-fire practice and simulation training once a year.
Mr Aveni agreed that it would be impractical for all officers to receive
intensive weapons training due to cost, time considerations and a lack of
mental aptitude. He suggested using the tactical operations unit more often
as well as providing extra training to officers who regularly execute arrest
and search warrants.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald