The powers of the police, explained

IF YOU find yourself in a difficult situation with a police officer, or you see them behaving questionable, it could be footage from the mobile phone, which is crucial.

Everyone has a smartphone, so when there are cases of police brutality is more and more likely it will be footage.

Earlier this month, police in Melbourne was filmed kicking a suspect in the face. That is not an approved tactic, no matter what state you’re in.

So, what powers police have when it comes to the use of force against a member of the public?

According to the Law on the Execution of the Conduct of the Commission’s (lessons the mac), have carried out 93 investigations of the Police of NSW use of force, 18 of which include allegations of assault and excessive force.

In addition, “a significant number of complaints about the unreasonable use of force are being investigated by the NSW Police Force”.

These additional investigations also are subject to the supervision of the lessons the mac.

With such a high number of investigations of the agents of excessive use of force and the questionable acting, any material is integral in the determination of what and to what extent the officials abuse their powers.

Police students are trained in weapon handling, defense tactics and effective communication at the time of study at the academy and your competition must be approved prior to assuming duties.

Although each situation is different, it is rarely excessive force is justified, regardless of the circumstances.

“The NSW Police Force making allegations against employees very seriously, and will investigate the allegations through a number of avenues that corresponds to the nature of the allegation,” a spokesman of the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) told the

So you have a better understanding of what is allowed (and what not), here is a selection of the standard operating procedures agents must follow:

While police graduates leave the academy to meet their responsibilities, the perceptions can be clouded when on the job.


This is the most powerful “weapon” in an artillery officer. In all places of work, how effective are you as a communicator can diffuse or escalate any tense situation.

Just look at the fundamentals of Dale Carnegie, the book How to win friends and influence people teaches all over the world.

It is an old book, but the principles it defends are timeless.

When a student begins their training at the police academy, the communication is one of the first things you are trained. An officer must be clear and assertive in how you speak with a member of the public, and they have a sense of authority and purpose. Unfortunately for some, young official, while grasp of this concept during the training, misinterpret it when they are in service.

This could be an official speaks aggressively when you are stopped for a random breath test.

The effective use of its words can give a full rotation to a situation. Once I arrested a criminal who spent half the night in police custody. The next day they got in touch with the boss to say thank you for how respectful and kind he was.

They were locked in a detention cell and had a lot of charges against them, but this situation turned out to catch more flies with honey.


An official with the power to put someone under arrest, lies in the Application of the Law of Powers and Responsibilities Act (LEPRA), 2002.

If the officer suspects on reasonable grounds that a person has committed or is committing a crime, you can stop them. The reasons are:

• The repetition of a criminal offence or commit another crime

• To stop them from fleeing from the officer or the location of crime

• To determine the identity of the person

• To ensure that appear before the court in connection with an offence

• To obtain property relating to a crime, if it is in the person’s possession

• To preserve evidence or prevent the forgery of evidence

• To prevent the harassment or interference of a person who can give evidence relating to an offence (victims, witnesses, etc.)

• To protect the safety and welfare of any person, including the person arrested

• Due to the nature and severity of the infraction

As you can see, these can be interpreted in different ways, so there are a variety of reasons why a person may be detained.

NSW officers patrolling Sydney. Picture: James D. Morgan/Getty Images


Recently, another group of Victorian police were suspended when the movie came out of them punching a disabled pensioner, while soaking it in oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray.

The way in which the police handle the security risks varies depending on circumstances, but normally, there are three strikes of an officer can use when and if the situation requires it.

Hammer strike:

With a closed fist, the officer hit with a hammer like motion, none that threatens the life of the zone (This is usually the arm, in the chest or in the thigh. Not the face, the neck, the groin or in any dangerous place).

The palm of the strike:

This is used when an agent needs to create distance between himself and the approach of an offender. With the open palms, the officer of the force pushes the person away while screaming: “go back.”

The hard push ideally creates distance and stops the offender from attacking an officer or a member of the public.

Again the use of strong clear communication is a basic element for all police officers from all over the world, so that if you ever the testimony of the officers shout in a loud voice to a person, this is why.

Elbow strike:

Obviously, an elbow is bony and can do a lot of damage. This movement should only be used if there is no risk to an officer or a member of the public’s safety.

With the forearm bent towards the official of the biceps, the elbow is driven in a large surface area of the body, similar to the Hammer Strike. This is a powerful movement, and can make the person comply.

It is extremely rare when a situation will call for an officer to elbow someone in the head or face and it is even more unlikely that an officer must be heard to encourage the person while doing so.

The expandable baton is one of the many tactical options to an officer that he wears on his belt.


In January of this year, officers attached to Byron Bay station were filmed beating a naked 16-year-old with a baton as he screamed for help.

I remember a case in which a group of officers in my command, responded to a great man who had smashed the window of a store on a busy street.

I was drug affected and violent. The first officers on the scene tried to communicate with him, three more cars arrived.

The man’s temperament was intensified and approached the officers swearing and waving his arms. One of the agents pulled out his OC spray and warned the man not to approach any closer.

Ignoring the request, he drove and got sprayed in the face.

He poses an immediate threat to the safety officer, and ignored the verbal communication so that the spray is appropriate. It stung the eyes of the man long enough for officers to jump on him with the wives.

Here is where it gets questionable.

With eight officers at the top of the man and his hands cuffed, a senior officer who had just arrived asked why no one had used a baton.

The man was under control, but the officer shouted at him: “He is still resisting, f***ing belt him!”

While large in build, there were eight officers piled on top of him and his hands in cuffs while he complained about the spray stinging their eyes. Still the most senior officer thought more force than necessary.

A test agent, which was itching to use his baton for the first time, pulled it out and began to put on the thighs of the man, resulting in a very large bruise.

My opinion is that the situation is not the call, but a senior official directed “someone” to use his baton, and the young officer I thought ‘why not’.

As I said, different situations require different action, but when a young officer is influenced by high officials do not do the right thing, there is the problem.

An example of the typical ‘Taser’ NSW police officers.


A Conducted Electrical Weapon or “Taser”, is an option that police can use in situations where there is “high risk” of serious injury.

Its purpose is to protect life, prevent bodily harm, or diffuse a violent confrontation. A Taser should not be used to stop someone from running, as the pain of compliance.

That the release of 50,000 volts when the probes penetrate the skin and cause Neuromuscular Incapacitation. Unfortunately, in some cases, the shock can be fatal.

The probes of the release of the five of the second round, but can be used to drive stun ” if ineffective.

A Taser it cannot be activated without the built-in camera and microphone activation.

If used, the footage is uploaded to a server and provides the evidence in the matter.

It shows exactly where the target was standing, what was said by all the world, and if the use of the device was justified. If the footage shows a person running from the officers, to surrender or be shot in the back, which is often seen as a major fail by the police.

While this is just a sample of the powers of the police, which gives you an idea of what you should and should not do when dealing with the public.

Tom Livingstone is a former “first response” officer with the New South Wales Police.