SHOOTING FROM THE LIP: Office of Police Integrity spin
By Sasha Uzunov

Award-winning reporter Cameron Stewart together with Greg Sheridan, Mark Dodd and Patrick Walters form The Australian newspaper’s dream team of defence/national security experts but it seems Stewart has trouble understanding the basics of ballistics.

Cameron “James Bond” Stewart who previously worked as a civilian employee for Australia’s super secret intelligence organisation Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) before becoming a journalist should you would think understand the principles of marksmanship or shooting.,25197,22653583-5014045,00.html

In a story that ran in The Australian on July 13 2009 titled ‘No Tasers’ for deadly police, Stewart quoted a soon to be released report from the Victorian Office of Police Integrity (OPI):,25197,25770795-5006785,00.html

“Victoria Police has failed to tackle the shoot-to-kill culture that made it the nation’s most deadly force, and its officers should not be trusted with Taser stun guns, the state’s police watchdog has declared.”

There is a long running battle between the watchdog OPI and the Victorian Police Association, the union, over the introduction of the Taser Gun. The Victorian Police Commissioner Simon Overland is opposed to the non-lethal weapon being handed out to all police.

The Stewart story does not explain what this shoot to kill culture is, which it is not. If Stewart will indulge me, maybe I can give him a soldier’s five (Australian Army slang for lesson).

Ok, let us start with Victorian Police Association Secretary Senior Sergeant Greg Davies, who summarises it correctly:

“These are highly adrenalin charged situations, where people are trained to shoot to the centre of body mass. Now, if that then becomes a shoot-to-kill policy in someone’s view, then, they’re entitled to their view. That’s not the case, our people do not go out and deliberately try and kill people.”

If Stewart has not lost me yet I will use simple language. There is no such thing as shoot to kill as a marksmanship principle either in the Australian Army nor any police force. If anything, it is shoot to stop an armed attacker as a last resort.

What does the centre of the seen mass or centre of the body mass mean? In one scenario it means that if the target is an adult male/female standing up, then you aim your weapon, pistol or rifle, for the abdomen or chest area in order to hit the target. In plain english, if it is a bullseye paper target, then you aim for the centre circle.

But why not just aim at the target’s hand or leg in order to wound him or her? Well, pistols are usually accurate upto 25 to 50 metres; assault rifles, such as the Australian Army’s F88 Austeyr, upto 300 metres. Wind, rain and other conditions can affect accuracy, as can the level of nervousness in the person handling the weapon.

Therefore, if you aim at the centre of the seen mass you have a better chance of hitting a target than if you aimed at a hand or leg. In other words, you have a bigger area to land a bullet on.

The consequence of missing an armed offender with weapon drawn can mean death for a soldier or police officer.

Any Police weapons instructor will tell you that firing 3 or 4 bullets may not stop an armed offender high on drugs. Australian soldiers from the Townsville based infantry unit, 1RAR, who served on the Somalia mission in 1993 in Africa were finding that in clashes with militiamen, high on a drug called the Khat leaf, that 5 or 6 bullets fired from the Austeyr rifle was not enough to stop them.

But police shooting an armed offender is always the last resort when every other means has failed. It is always difficult for those who have never been in such a situation to understand.

Snr Sergeant Davies quite rightly has expressed scepticism at the leaked OPI report.

“We do have some issues with the fact that reports are released-leaked from the OPI and then nobody butters up to answer questions about it,” he said.

A media that does not scrutinise basic marksmanship principles is easier to persuade with spin.