Victoria Police Special Operations Group
|Special Operations Group|
|Active||1977 - Present|
|Role||Police tactical unit|
|Part of||Security Services Division|
|Nickname(s)||Sons of God |
|Motto(s)||"Blessed are the peacemakers" from Matthew 5:9 |
|Engagements||Port Arthur massacre, Melbourne gangland killings|
|Doug O'Loughlin, Neil O'Loughlin, Robert O'Loughlin|
The Special Operations Group (SOG) is the Police Tactical Group of the Victoria Police who wear iconic black coveralls synonymous of the SOG. Formed in 1977, the SOG was Australia's first full time, and also, dedicated Police Tactical Group.
The SOG was formed in secrecy on 31 October 1977 by Chief Commissioner Mick Miller to establish a group to conduct special operations in regard to counter terrorism that would be directed towards preventative/protective security and combatting operations. Terrorism meaning politically motivated criminal activity as well as other forms of criminal activity which terrorise innocent persons. The first the public was aware of the existence of the SOG was by an article in The Age newspaper in 1980.
In 1992, the Nine Network screened a television documentary on the SOG selection course, that included long runs, interspersed with scoffing warm beer and meat pies until the volunteers threw up, to demonstrate to drink any alcohol while on call, would impair functioning. In 1995, following a review of the SOG as part of Project Beacon, safety-first tactics were introduced along with less-than-lethal equipment with the philosophy that use of force is the last resort. In 1996, the SOG became the first Police Tactical Group to deploy interstate, with ten officers urgently sent to Tasmania via charter plane to assist the part-time Tasmania Police Special Operations Group to respond to the Port Arthur massacre.
In 2003, the Bomb Response Unit (BRU) was established with dedicated officers within the SOG which had since inception provided a bomb search and disposal capability to Victoria Police. In 2004, the Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) was formed to respond to high risk non-firearms incidents to reduce the SOG workload. Such as a call out in September 1998 when the SOG disarmed a sword-wielding mentally ill man in a two-hour stand off in front of a 2000-strong crowd near Flinders Street station. Earlier in 1995 during the SOG Review, there had been a proposal for two SOG teams consisting of four officers each to patrol Melbourne similar to CIRT.
In 2011, the SOG responded to 4 sieges, conducted 10 forced building entries, conducted 54 high-risk arrests and mobile intercepts, and 36 cordon-and-call operations.
In 2016, it was announced that the SOG strength would be increased by 20 new officers. Earlier in 2010, the strength of the unit had been cut to expand CIRT. In 2016, it was also announced that the SOG would develop a new capability with their own tactical dogs.
The SOG has two nicknames Soggies and the Sons of God, the latter a backronym made from the initials SOG. The unofficial SOG emblem is telescopic crosshairs superimposed over a balaclava-clad head on an outline of Australia.
Notable recent incidents include the Brighton siege in June 2017, the fatal shooting of Mohamed Chaouk in April 2005 in Brooklyn, Wayne Joannou in February 2005 in South Melbourne, and earlier the fatal shooting of Norman Leung Lee in July 1992 at Melbourne Airport, the manhunt for Melbourne Remand Centre escapees in March 1993 near Jamieson, resolving a siege at a law firm in Mitcham in June 1996 with tear gas and a siege in Kangaroo Flat in October 1999 in which four uniform officers had been wounded. The SOG was responsible for the security of the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
The SOG is part of the Security Services Division of the Transit & Public Safety command within Victoria Police.
The SOG provides Victoria Police with a counter terrorist and high risk arrest response capability. The SOG roles include, but are not limited to:-
- Armed offender
- Terrorism or significant politically motivated violence
- Unplanned operational critical incidents, such as situations involving armed offenders including sieges and hostage situations
- Planned operations involving the arrest of dangerous suspects
- Undertaking searches of premises in high risk situations (level three)
- Bomb related incidents
- Covert surveillance or reconnaissance beyond the scope of operational police
The SOG use a variety of specialised weapons and equipment including SIG MCX SBR rifles which replaced the Steyr AUG which was being used, and use the Heckler & Koch USP handgun chambered in .45 ACP caliber, as well as Benelli M4 Super 90 shotguns. Though recently the SOG uses the Smith & Wesson M&P pistol as the sidearm more often than the USP .45 pistols used prior. The M&P pistols are carried in various Safariland holster's. 
In July 2018, the SOG took delivery of two Lenco BearCat armoured rescue vehicles, one funded by the Victorian Government and the other purchased by Victoria Police, to update their older model BearCat. In April 2013, the SOG had taken delivery of a BearCat funded by the Federal Government. The BearCat had replaced a Canadian made Armet Armored Vehicles Balkan Mk7 that had been in service since 2009. The Balkan had replaced their first armoured vehicle, a British made Composite Armoured Vehicle (CAV) 100 Land Rover Defender, acquired in 1995 after being imported for trialling by the Special Air Service Regiment. In 2016, the acquisition of three new ballistic rated vehicles was announced.
- Critical Incident Response Team
- Police Tactical Groups
- Tactical Assault Groups (Australian Defence Force)
- National Counter-Terrorism Exercise
- Silvester, John (20 October 2012). "Forget forgiveness from these 'Sons of God'". The Age. Retrieved December 2, 2012.
- O'Loughlin, Heath (2017). Sons of God : inside the secret world of our Special Operations Group. Sydney, New South Wales: Pan Macmillan. ISBN 9781743539378.
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- Miller, Mick (31 October 1977). Special Operations Group. Chief Commissioner Memorandum.
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- Shuey (Ret.), Assistant Commissioner Ray. "Victoria - Police Practice in Other Jurisdictions". Barr Tribunal Report (Ireland) 2006. Damien Mulley. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
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- Anderson, Paul. "Inside the shooting death of murder suspect Wayne Joannou by Victoria's elite Special Operations Group aka the 'Sons of God'". Herald Sun. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
- "Victoria Police Special Operations Group (SOG) now 'The Peacemakers' after a string of fatal shootings". Herald Sun. 21 August 2015. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
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- "A Landmark, Victorian-First Plan To Keep People Safe". Premier of Victoria (Press release). 7 December 2016. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
- Minear, Tom (7 December 2016). "New police helicopters, body cameras in State Government crime blitz". Herald Sun. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
- Peter Mitchell (24 July 2017). Elite Force. 7 News Melbourne (Television production). Seven Network. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
- Dowsley, Anthony (25 March 2017). "Victoria Police special operations, critical incident teams get new guns". Herald Sun. Archived from the original on 18 November 2017. Retrieved 3 June 2017.
- "Special Operations Group expand their fleet". Victoria Police (Press release). 29 July 2018. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
- "'BearCat' to assist police in hostile situations". ABC. 12 April 2013. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
- "The Bearcat". Police Life - the Victoria Police magazine. Victoria Police. p. 4. ISSN 0032-2598. Spring 2013. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
- "Lenco Supplies BearCat Armored Vehicles to Australian National Counter Terrorism Committee". Lenco Armored Vehicles. 9 April 2014. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
- "Balkan Safety Rescue Vehicle". Police Life - the Victoria Police magazine. Victoria Police. p. 4. ISSN 0032-2598. December 2009. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
- "Armet Balkan - Australian Police.mpg". Armet Armored Vehicles. Youtube. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
- "Armoured Land-Rovers". Land Rovers. Lloyd Allison. Retrieved 27 July 2016.