Tasmania Police Special Operations Group

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Special Operations Group
Active1978 - present
CountryAustralia
BranchTasmania Police
RolePolice tactical unit
Size30
Part ofSpecialist Capability Support, Special Response and Counter-Terrorism Unit
Garrison/HQHobart
Nickname(s)Soggies[1]
Sons of God[1]
Motto(s)"Si Opus Sit"
(If Necessary)
EngagementsPort Arthur massacre

The Special Operations Group (SOG) is the Police Tactical Group of the Tasmania Police and is the only part-time police tactical group in Australia.

Mission[edit]

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.[2][3]

History[edit]

The SOG has its origins in the Armed Offenders Squad formed in 1978, subsequently renamed the Special Weapons Squad by 1985 and to the Special Operations Group between 1988-1991.[3][4][5][6]

In July 1991, an SOG sniper fatally shot Vietnam war veteran Joseph Gilewicz near Pelverata.

On 28 April 1996, the SOG responded to the Port Arthur massacre; gunman Martin Bryant, who was intellectually disabled and mentally ill, was reported to have killed over 30 people, two of whom were children, and was in possession of a 5.56mm AR-15 assault rifle and a 7.62mm FN FAL self loading rifle with large quantities of ammunition.

On the morning of Sunday the 28th, Bryant travelled to Seascape, a 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, some distance away, were dispatched at 1335. Bryant had killed 27 people changing between rifles. He left Port Arthur at about 1345 hours, carjacking a BMW at the entrance, and later stopped a Toyota exiting a service station, taking a male hostage, before returning to Seascape at about 1400 hours. He had killed a further 5 people. The hostage was secured in the house before Bryant set the BMW on fire. Two uniform police arrived, witnessing the BMW alight, and were fired upon taking cover in a culvert.

At about 1530 hours, negotiators made contact with Bryant, and at 1537 hours, an SOG contingent departed Hobart, 85 km away, by helicopter together with a contingent by car at 1604 hours. At about 2100 hours, two SOG officers joined the uniform officers in the culvert, and at about 2300 hours, all crawled out about 200m to safety. Continuous fire came from various directions from Seascape using differing weapons, including weapons the owners possessed, including a 7.62mm SKS assault rifle. A sniper approached to within 75m of Seascape, a lapse by the operator to conceal his radio's light exposed his position to Bryant who could see a red light ever time he transmitted. Bryant fired at the sniper and he advised the negotiator that he saw police. The SOG thought he may possess night vision, not aware of the lapse to cover 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. Eight officers from the Victoria Police Special Operations Group arrived by two chartered planes 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, and between 0400 and 0600 hours, there was a lull in the shooting. At about 0745 hours, Seascape was set on fire, and at about 0825 hours, Bryant ran out on fire and unarmed and was immediately arrested. Nearly 200 rounds had been fired from Seascape. After the fire, the body of the hostage from the Toyota was located in the building with fatal gunshot injuries who had been killed before the fire as there was no evidence of smoke inhalation.[7][8][9][10][1]

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.[11][12] There has been calls to make the SOG full-time.[11] 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.[13] In 2018, it was announced that additional funding would provided of $165,000 in 2020-21 and $75,000 in 2021-22 to re-establish a full-time core Special Operations Group.[14]

The SOG Support Unit, formerly 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.

Organisation[edit]

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.[4]

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.[4]

Role[edit]

The SOG roles are:

Training[edit]

Volunteers for the SOG need to successfully complete a one-week selection course, and if successful, must then successfully complete an 8-week training course.[4]

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.[4]

45 training days are allocated a year to maintain these skills and there is participation in the ANZCTC Police Tactical Group Skills Enhancement Courses.[4]

The ABC documentary television series Australian Story screened an episode A Few Good Men in March 2000 on the selection and training course.[15]

Equipment[edit]

In June 2012, the SOG took delivery of a Lenco BearCat replacing their Mercedes-Benz Sprinter based Armoured Tactical Vehicle (ATV) acquired in 2006.[16][17][18]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Judy Tierney (15 October 1999). Elite police group pushes hard to find the right stuff. 7.30 Report (Television production). Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 1 March 2017.
  2. ^ Tasmania Police (May 2017). Tasmania Police Manual (PDF). Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Special Operations Group (SOG)". Tasmania Police. Archived from the original on 25 February 2008.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Eastwood, Gary. "Inside the SOG" (PDF). Police Association News. Police Association of Tasmania (June 2011). ISSN 1327-7626. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 March 2012.
  5. ^ 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 29 July 2018.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ O'Loughlin, Heath (2017). Sons of God : inside the secret world of our Special Operations Group. Sydney, New South Wales: Pan Macmillan. ISBN 9781743539378.
  8. ^ Dale, Amy (31 March 2015). "Port Arthur Massacre: Off duty Sydney policeman Justin Noble's actions saved lives including that of his pregnant wife". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 7 October 2017.
  9. ^ "Police speak about Port Arthur murderer". The Sydney Morning Herald. 9 April 2006. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
  10. ^ Silvester, John (13 September 2014). "Naked city: Special Ops vet and Patch do the hard yards". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
  11. ^ a b McKay, Danielle (27 September 2009). "Elite cops in short supply". The Mercury. Archived from the original on 7 October 2012.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Worley, Mark (6 August 2007). "Anti-terror unit disbanded". The Mercury.
  14. ^ Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Management Michael Ferguson (25 June 2018). "Over $9 million in illicit drugs seized" (Press release). Premier of Tasmania. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
  15. ^ Judy Tierney (9 March 2000). A Few Good Men. Australian Story (Television production). Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
  16. ^ Attorney-General for Australia Nicola Roxon (15 March 2012). "New high-tech 'Bearcat' armoured rescue vehicles announced". Attorney-General's Department (Press release). Archived from the original on 16 March 2012.
  17. ^ "Launch of new Armoured Tactical Vehicle". State Security (Press release). 23 February 2006. Archived from the original on 20 August 2006.
  18. ^ "BearCat ready for duty". The Examiner. 19 June 2012. Retrieved 29 July 2016.

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