New breed of elite cops packing serious heat
QUEENSLAND police are packing assault rifles, with specialist teams roaming streets for high-risk situations.
The Courier-Mail can reveal that the Public Safety Response Team (PSRT) is hitting southeast roads 24 hours a day with Remington R4 and SIG Sauer M400 rifles to help first responders at major police incidents.
The police, who roam in Mobile Response Capability (MRC) groups of four, are also now rolling with a 40mm launcher with less-than-lethal sponge rounds.
It hits with the equivalent of a baton strike, but could break ribs at close range.
Used in high-risk jobs, the teams were involved in the hunt for alleged murderer Zlatko Sikorsky and helped the Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) at the Sunshine Coast siege at the weekend.
As specialist police had killer Rick Maddison surrounded after he killed police officer Brett Forte, PSRT was used as protection at the police command post during the siege because police feared Maddison's associates may try to turn up to the scene.
PSRT teams set up containments, kick down doors, track and hit dangerous car thieves, and are used in cell extractions and high-risk prison transfers, court security and water police operations.
The MRC, which can have up to four crews on patrol, use both marked and unmarked vehicles and have a medium response time in the southeast of 10 minutes.
Acting Inspector Brett Seeto said that because of their mobility, the MRC teams are the most likely first-responders with general duty officers in the event of an "active armed offender" (AAO) or even a terror attack.
They contain the scene until the highly trained SERT arrive, or if there is an active threat, PSRT teams are involved in taking out a shooter or someone threatening life.
"The MRC has two primary aims - one is to support first-response officers at high-risk situations to de-escalate the incident," Insp Seeto told The Courier-Mail. "And two conduct patrols around priority sites and critical infrastructure and places of mass gathering to provide a timely response to any situation required by police."
While police in other states such as NSW made a major announcement about their riot squad hitting the road with rifles, Queensland police teams have been quietly patrolling with the weapons for a considerably longer time.
PSRT has 59 sworn officers, made up mostly of senior constables who have a minimum five years on the job.
When they turn up to a job in teams of four, they are a "force multiplier", which helps in de-escalating an incident, Insp Seeto said. PSRT attended more than 5000 jobs, were involved in 719 planned operations and 437 MRC specific jobs in the last year.
In a six-month trial in 2015, the group attended more than 1100 jobs.
Teams were involved in the arrest at an armed siege involving former Bandidos bikie Brett Pechey earlier this year.
They were also part of the Commonwealth Games counter-terrorism layer of security and with SERT trained High Acuity Response Unit paramedics for active shooter responses.
They trained together to enter scenes that were no longer active, but still had an element of risk of the person reappearing.
"What they (Queensland Ambulance Service) recognised was ordinarily for them to provide frontline trauma care, they would often be waiting at an outer-cordoned situation and waiting for an incident to cease prior to being able to go forward and provide medical assistance," Insp Seeto said.
PSRT describe themselves as being "jack of all trades" with more training than general police, but not to a Police Tactical Group level (SERT is trained to this level).
But the officers, who train weekly in scenarios and weapons training, fill a gap between general duty and SERT.
PSRT is also used in disaster response, with some of the officers having carpentry and other trades backgrounds.