Critical Incident Response Team
|Critical Incident Response Team|
|Active||2004 - Present|
|Part of||Security Services Division|
The Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) are teams of officers from the Victoria Police Force Response Unit (FRU) available to provide assistance to general duties police, including a negotiator capability, to resolve high risk incidents utilising specialist tactics and equipment. CIRT teams patrol metropolitan Melbourne 24-hours, seven-day-per-week, ready to rapidly respond to incidents in Melbourne, and if necessary, in regional Victoria.
In March 2004, the FRU launched the CIRT concept with two teams to provide specialist assistance to general duties police with a primary focus on tactical support and negotiation capabilities supported by a greater range of less-than-lethal options, and as a consequence to relieve the elite Special Operations Group (SOG) tactical unit from attending incidents not within their call out criteria.
The concept is similar to the British police Armed response vehicle (ARV) that patrol ready to respond to provide specialist assistance. An individual CIRT is referred to as a Van due to their use of this vehicle, similar to use of the acronym ARV. This concept was first considered by Victoria Police during the review of the Special Operations Group as part of Project Beacon conducted in 1995.
The primary role of the FRU subsequently changed to providing CIRT teams whilst continuing to maintain the negotiator capability for Victoria Police.
In 2005, the Office of Police Integrity recommended that regional Victoria have a CIRT presence, in addition, to the Dog Squad basing dogs in regional Victoria. The Police Association is reported to have requested that Vans have a presence across the state. In contrast, the New South Wales Police Force has part-time State Protection Support Units based in regional areas in addition to dogs.
The majority of CIRT deployments are related to mental illness, for example between 2010 and 2011 of the total 685 call outs, 324 of these (47%) were mental illness related, with 29 percent of these mental illness call outs including drug and alcohol use.
The FRU is part of the Security Services Division of the Transit & Public Safety command within Victoria Police, which also includes the Special Operations Group, and has a reported strength of 187 officers, including nine female officers, who receive 6 weeks of initial training at the police academy.
Role of the CIRT
The primary function of a CIRT is to provide a rapid specialised response available to general duties police for high risk incidents, such as:-
- Barricade incidents
- Armed offender incidents
- Violent confrontations
- Suicide interventions
- Cell clearances for violent prisoners
- Suspicious powder/packages – including CBR incidents
- Searches for armed offenders
- Incidents where SOG criteria are met (firearms), the CIRT will perform the role to establish and maintain a cordon until the SOG arrive.
The incidents pose a threat to general duties police or are difficult to resolve due to violence or other dangers. Any general duties police supervisor can request assistance from the FRU for a CIRT who rapidly respond if approved by higher ranking CIRT officers. CIRT has specialised training and is equipped with more "less than lethal" options to resolve an incident than general duties police.
An incident may fall within the call out criteria of the Special Operations Group (SOG) such as a firearm incident. However, the SOG require that a high ranking police officer authorise their deployment. In the interim, CIRT can rapidly respond to the incident awaiting the SOG arrival providing cordon and containment. On arrival of the SOG, CIRT can provide assistance to the SOG such as perimeter containment.
The FRU has officers, the Tasked Operations team, who receive further training in Tactical Arrest Options to conduct level 2 forced entries for general duties / detectives to execute search warrants on premises or to conduct high risk arrests which are below the scope / deployment criteria of the Special Operations Group.
The Critical Incident Response Team continues to offer a variety of other support and specialist services such as:
- Close personal protection
- The provision of trained and qualified police negotiators and equipment
- The provision of security for protected witnesses
- High risk escorts
- The conduct or assistance with covert or overt operations in support of investigations and /or the apprehension of offenders
- Chemical, biological, and/or radiological (CBR) response capabilities and equipment
Victoria Police formed a new unit, the Public Order Response Team (PORT) in 2011, that provides rapid response to public order incidents to assist general duties police in Melbourne or throughout Victoria. Prior to the formation of PORT, a CIRT was the only rapid response available to assist general duties police.
CIRT teams are always on the road patrolling metropolitan Melbourne in vehicles enabling them to rapidly respond, originally vehicles were Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans, now vehicles are Volkswagen Transporter vans.
CIRT officers have a range of specialised equipment and weapons in their inventory ranging from ballistic and tactical vests, helmets, riot shields, Minuteman ballistic shields, Tasers, bean bag rounds, gas masks, ladders, breaching tools and various oleoresin capsicum (OC) delivery systems.
Officers are armed with Smith & Wesson M&P .40 handguns, Heckler & Koch UMP .40 submachine guns and shotguns. A CIRT officer previously only had the tactical option of a handgun and/or a shotgun, officers are now equipped with the Heckler & Koch UMP .40 submachine gun to enable them to better cordon and contain firearms incidents, and if necessary, resolve the incident.
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