Police tactical group

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Police Tactical Groups (PTGs), formerly known as "police assault groups", are part of the Australian government's National Anti-Terrorism Plan [1] which, since 1978, has required each state and territory police force to maintain a specialised counter-terrorist and hostage rescue unit jointly funded by the federal government and respective state/territory governments.[2]

The Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee (ANZCTC) defines Police Tactical Groups (PTGs) as a highly trained police unit that tactically manages and resolves high-risk incidents, including terrorist incidents.[3]

PTGs directly support their respective State Police forces in high-risk incidents such as sieges with specialised tactical, negotiation, intelligence and command-support services which are beyond the scope and capability of police generally.[4]


Various state and territory police forces maintained 'tactical' or 'emergency' squads known by varying names consisting of police trained to use specialist equipment and weapons as far back as 1945.[5] These sections consisted mainly of detectives and had limited capability and funding.[6][7] The 1978 Sydney Hilton bombing, where a CHOGM event was being conducted at that time, saw the formation of SACPAV (Standing Advisory Committee on Commonwealth/State Co-operation for Protection Against Violence). Prior to this, Australia had no formal mechanisms to respond to terrorism. SACPAV provided national consistency across all jurisdictions and made several recommendations including that all states and territories maintain a specialist police unit trained for counter-terrorist and hostage rescue situations. These units were initially known as 'police assault groups' in line with the Australian Defense Forces nomenclature with their recently created (at the time) tactical assault group. This saw the formalisation of many states' tactical units with the standardisation of all police groups in respect to training, equipment and the desired level of response.[8]


The primary providers of law enforcement in Australia are the state and territories. PTGs are civilian-police SWAT units established to respond to high-risk situations which are beyond the scope or capacity of everyday policing. PTG officers directly support operational police in incidents such as sieges with specialist tactical, negotiation, intelligence and command support services. Aside from internal, inter-state and international training and courses the tactical assault group of the Australian Special Air Service Regiment conducts annual training courses for PTG members from each state and territory.[9]

Training exercises[edit]

PTGs also participate in regular national counter-terrorist exercises (NATEXs), in which federal and state government agencies practise responses to potential terrorist threats and test the procedures and legislation for Australian Defence Force support to civilian authorities in the event of a terrorist attack.[10]

Each year as part of the National Counter-Terrorist Committee Skills Enhancement Course, each state and territory sends several members of its PTG to participate in a concentrated three-week course to strengthen standards of policing in urban counter-terrorist tactics and ensure all states are training consistently to the same codes and standards of counter-terrorism.[11][12]

PTG training is doctrinated, structured and set to a national standard which reduces inconsistent and fragmented training practices. These are designed to allow national interoperability of the PTGs if required. An example of such interoperability was the Port Arthur massacre that saw the Tasmanian Police Special Operations Group assisted by the Victorian Police Special Operations Group.[13]

PTGs undertake training with counterparts in New Zealand such as their Police Special Tactics Group.[14]


Police Tactical Groups are responsible for a few of the following:


All groups are jointly funded and equipped by both their respective state police force and federal government. Federal government funding allows purchases for more expensive equipment such as Lenco BearCat armoured rescue vehicles. The Australian Government has purchased eight ‘BearCats’ at a cost of approximately $400,000 each—one for each state and territory police tactical group.[15]

State, territory and federal units[edit]

See also[edit]