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Critical training facility to tackle increasingly diverse threat of terrorism

Thursday, 26 August 2021 08:05:41 AM

While NSW continues to adjust to COVID-19 lockdown requirements, the threat of terrorism grows increasingly diverse.

The NSW Police Force continues to maintain preparedness for potential terrorism events and has implemented several significant strategies to address the increasing complexity and diversity of the terrorist threat in Australia, including:

  • a robust training and exercise program for officers in command of policing responses to terrorism incidents;
  • creation of the High-Risk Terrorism Offenders Unit to proactively monitor released prisoners;
  • the introduction of a counter-drone capability;
  • close working relationships with key partners in the Australian Defence Force, Australian Federal Police, NSW Ambulance, Fire & Rescue NSW and NSW Rural Fire Services;
  • significantly strengthened covert online capability to address increasing use of digital platforms to spread extremist messaging; and the
  • establishment of the Engagement and Hate Crimes Unit to identify people at risk of radicalisation.

Since 2017, when Commissioner Mick Fuller established the Fixated Persons Investigations Unit, police are now able to ensure that people who didn’t previously meet the threshold of counter terrorism police were now on the radar.

The Minister for Police and Emergency Services, David Elliott, announced that the NSW Police Force’s capacity to respond to high risk incidents has been boosted with a new $3 million Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics training facility. The announcement coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Tactical Operations Unit, which started in 1991 as part of the State Protection Group.

“The NSW Police Force counter terrorism capabilities are world-leading, with police officers ready to respond to high-risk incidents, “ Minister Elliott said.

“The new facility will provide hands on training to specialist officers from a range of commands including: The Tactical Operations Unit, Police Negotiators, Rescue and Bomb Disposal Unit, and the Public Order and Riot Squad.

“The facility is also available to other specialist officers from partner agencies to ensure all emergency service organisations across the state gain the benefit of this immersive training resource.

“The NSW community is the ultimate benefactor knowing that their police and emergency services continue to focus on reducing the threat of terrorism in this state,” he said.

The state-of-the-art facility is in metropolitan Sydney and will ensure specialist and tactical officers are available for time-sensitive and critical operational deployments. The facility will also be available for partner agencies for preparedness training.

The facility has been purpose-built to train specialist police officers in a wide range of tactics and techniques and includes various modifiable structures to replicate real-life scenarios, including:

  • a free-standing multi-storey building structure for hostage rescue scenarios;
  • a streetscape for vehicle and active armed offender training;
  • static helicopter mock-up to practice fast rope;
  • climbing wall;
  • weapon less control area; and
  • space to conduct classroom-style training.

Deputy Commissioner David Hudson, Investigations and Counter Terrorism, said the terrorism environment we are dealing with continues to evolve.

“We have seen the emergence of radical and dangerous beliefs proliferating online which are of increasing concern,” Deputy Commissioner Hudson said.

“We’ve now entered a new phase of countering terrorism with a rise in the threat of ideologically motivated violence in addition to religiously motivated violence.

“Whilst the threat of terrorism is increasingly diverse, we have the legal powers, people, and resources to counter violent extremism. Our overarching priority remains the prevention of any terrorist attack occurring,” he said.

Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Commander, Assistant Commissioner Mark Walton, said the Australian terrorism threat level remains at ‘Probable’ and police continue to require immersive training in environments that replicate potential threats.

“With more than 500 specialist officers within the Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Command, our focus will always be on detecting and preventing terrorist activities.

“This new Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics training facility provides an environment to regularly exercise and improve capabilities including method of entry, clearance, weapons simunition, rappelling, urban climbing and linear assault. We now have a single location where police commanders and operators can exercise together ensuring that command decisions and tactical resolution is delivered and reviewed in real time.

“We will continue to focus our capabilities to respond to both religious-based and ideological extremism in both regional and metropolitan locations, but we will always target criminals and criminal activity, not ideologies or backgrounds,” Assistant Commissioner Walton said.