Police in Australia’s most populous state will be allowed to shoot suspects in “terrorist related” incidents, even if the attacker does not pose an imminent threat, under a proposed law, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said yesterday.
The change comes after a series of “lone wolf” Muslim extremist attacks, the most serious of which raised questions about the traditional police strategy of “contain and negotiate” in hostage situations.
According to the proposal, which is likely to be adopted in the state’s parliament given the support for it, lethal force could be used immediately if an incident is declared “terrorist related” by the state’s most senior police officer, Berejiklian told reporters.
Currently, police have to wait until a suspect demonstrates an imminent threat to others.
Authorities said that law curtailed their ability to end a 2014 siege in the Lindt Cafe in Sydney, in which three people, including the hostagetaker, were killed.
New South Wales Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said the change was needed to correct a “gray area.”
“When you get in a situation like with Lindt and you have a sniper who is sitting 300 meters away looking through a scope, at the moment, they have to determine in their own minds whether they have the legal ability to use lethal force,” Fuller told reporters.
“If it is uncertain, it is understandable an officer will hesitate,” he said.
Police waited more than 16 hours before storming the Lindt Cafe, and then only after the attacker had killed a hostage.
Police killed the attacker, but a second hostage was also killed by ricocheting fragments of a bullet fired by police.
Police had failed to respond quickly enough, a coroner said last month.
The cafe siege, which began on Dec. 15, 2014, was Australia’s most deadly violence inspired by the Islamic State group.
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