Between 1990 and 1997, 75 people were shot in confrontations with police. Forty-one were shot by police officers and 33 died from self-inflicted gunshot wounds. This paper examines the 41 cases in which police shot people whom they were attempting to detain. Following a peak year in Victoria in 1994, training to minimise risk of the use of force was introduced, and fatal shootings have fallen significantly since that time. New technologies of restraint have also been introduced.
While police training is certainly effective, analysis of the cases shows that almost half of the persons involved were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the incident, one-third of the victims were reported to be depressed or to have had some form of psychiatric history, and one-fifth had a domestic altercation prior to police attendance. The police are therefore having to deal with some highly disturbed individuals.
This paper highlights the need for Australia’s Police Services to be provided with the necessary defence and negotiation skills, as well as training in the effective use of appropriate weapons, in dealing with potentially fatal situations.