Tasmania Police Special Operations Group
|Special Operations Group|
|Active||1978 - present|
|Role||Law Enforcement and Domestic counter-terrorism|
|Part of||Specialist Capability Support, Special Response and Counter-Terrorism Unit|
Sons of God
"Si Opus Sit"|
|Engagements||Port Arthur massacre|
The SOG incorporates police officers who, through specific training, have acquired skills and expertise to provide a specialist resource and response to support statewide operational policing when beyond the scope of general police resources, practices or situation management. The SOG is deployed in high risk situations and in other approved circumstances approved by an Assistant Commissioner.
In July 1991, an SOG sniper fatally shot Vietnam war veteran Joseph Gilewicz near Pelverata.
In April 1996, the SOG responded to the Port Arthur shootings by Martin Bryant reported to have killed over 30 people and possessed a 5.56mm AR-15 assault rifle and a 7.62mm FN FAL assault rifle together with large quantities of ammunition. Bryant was intellectually disabled and mentally ill. On a Sunday morning, Bryant travelled to the Seascape tourist accommodation facility and killed the couple who owned the bed and breakfast. Shortly afterwards he drove a short distance to Port Arthur, a popular tourist attraction, and started shooting people at around 1330 hours. Uniform police quite a distance away were dispatched. He killed 31 people and injured 19 changing between rifles. He left Port Arthur at about 1345 hours carjacking a BMW and ambushed a car taking a male hostage before returning to Seascape at about 2pm. The male hostage was secured in the house before he set the BMW on fire. Two uniform police arrive witnessing the BMW alight and were fired upon taking cover in a culvert. At about 1530 hours negotiators made contact with Bryant. At 1537 hours, an SOG contingent departed Hobart, 85km away, by helicopter together with a contingent by car at 404pm. At about 2100 hours two SOG officers joined the uniform officers in the culvert and at about 2300 hours crawled out about 200m to safety. Continuous fire came from various directions from Seascape using differing weapons augmented by weapons the owners possessed including a 7.62mm SKS assault rifle. A sniper made it as close as 75m from Seascape. The operator's radio light was not concealed and ever transmit Bryant saw the red light and fired upon the operator. Bryant advised the negotiator that he saw police. The SOG thought he may possess night vision not aware of the radio light. The SOG believed that in addition to the confirmed hostage that the owner couple were still alive and were hostages. The SOG formed a perimeter under constant fire. No fire was returned by the SOG due to risk to hostages. Twelve officers from the Victoria Police Special Operations Group arrived by a chartered plant at 2300 hours to provide assistance. An immediate action plan was prepared to rescue the three hostages with an estimated in excess of 30% casualty rate for the operators. No movement by a hostage had been witnessed. A decision was made to wait it out. Between 0400 and 0600 hours there was a lull in the firing. At about 0745 hours a fire started with Bryant at about 0825 hours running out on fire and unarmed. Nearly 200 rounds had been fired from Seascape. 35 people had been killed and 23 wounded.
The SOG has always struggled to maintain staffing at the national recommended minimum due to the small size of Tasmania Police providing a limited pool for SOG recruiting. There has been calls to make the SOG full-time. In 2007, the Special Capability Unit established in 2003 with a full-time contingent of ten former SOG officers, to augment the twenty part-time SOG, was disbanded.
The Cordon and Containment Team was formed in 2009 to provide additional support for the SOG with holding a close cordon at a high-risk incident in an urban environment and assisting marksmen in rural environments. Team members complete a two-week training course and an eight-day refresher course annually.
All SOG members are part-time, fulfilling a primary role in a diverse range of work areas across the State, including general uniform positions, CIB, DIS, CMU and Traffic. The members are located in each geographical District and each member is also attached to one of three SOG Teams.
Two teams are southern based – Alpha team and Bravo team each with eight members, whilst the third, Echo team, with ten members is based in Launceston. Vehicles and equipment are located with each team to provide a more timely response. Each team participates in the on-call roster with this capability maintained every day of the year.
- Resolving siege and hostage situations, as well as armed offender situations;
- Counter-terrorism and hijacking operations;
- The escort and security of VIPs, internationally protected persons, Heads of State;
- Undertaking searches of premises in high risk situations;
- The arrest of armed and dangerous offenders;
- Escorting and securing dangerous prisoners in high risk situations;
Training includes weapons skills, close quarter tactics, room clearances, method of entry (buildings / doors), less lethal options (including CS gas, Taser and Bean bag rounds), rural and urban tactics, water operations (including the fast response vessel), fast roping / helicopter training, surveillance and many other related disciplines.
On 9 March 2000, Australian Story screened a documentary titled a Few Good Men on the selection and training course.
In June 2012, the SOG took delivery of a Lenco BearCat which will either replace or supplement their 2006 purchased Mercedes-Benz 'Sprinter' based Armoured Tactical Vehicle (ATV).
- "Elite police group pushes hard to find the right stuff (Transcript)". 730 Report. 15 October 1999. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
- "Tasmania Police Manual" (PDF). Tasmania Police. 11 November 2010. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
- "Special Operations Group (SOG)". Tasmania Police.
- Eastwood, Gary. "Inside the SOG" (PDF). Police Association News (June 2011). Police Association of Tasmania.
- Police source book 2 / edited by Bruce Swanton and Garry Hannigan ; assisted by Trish Psaila (PDF). Phillip, A.C.T: Australian Institute of Criminology. 1985. ISBN 0642078319. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
- Westwood, F.D. (20 September 1993). Award variation - restructuring and rates of pay - Structural Efficiency Principle - special case applications - Police Award (PDF). Tasmanian Industrial Commission. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
- Dale, Amy. "Port Arthur Massacre: Off duty Sydney policeman Justin Noble's actions saved lives including that of his pregnant wife". The Daily Telegraph. 31 March 2015. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
- "Police speak about Port Arthur murderer". The Sydney Morning Herald. 9 April 2006. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
- Knight, Hannah. "Remembering the horror of the Port Arthur massacre". Bendigo Advertiser. 29 July 2014. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
- Silvester, John. "Naked city: Special Ops vet and Patch do the hard yards". Sydney Morning Herald. The Age - 13 September 2014. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
- McKay, Danielle. "Elite cops in short supply". The Mercury. 27 September 2009.
- National Guidelines for deployment of police to high risk situations, deployment of police negotiators and the use of lethal force - 2005. Australasian Centre for Policing Research.
- Worley, Mark (6 August 2007). "Anti-terror unit disbanded". The Mercury.
- "A Few Good Men". Australian Story. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
- "A Few Good Men (Transcript)". Australian Story.
- "New high-tech 'Bearcat' armoured rescue vehicles announced". Attorney-General for Australia. 15 March 2012.
- "Launch of new Armoured Tactical Vehicle (ATV)". State Security Tasmania. 23 February 2006.
- "BearCat ready for duty". The Examiner. 19 June 2012. Retrieved 29 July 2016.