60 Minutes blog

Michael Usher: Brute Force

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I’ve just spent a few weeks with some of our hardest cops, who patrol one of the most violent beats in Australia.

What I saw was sickening and downright intimidating.

The beat I’m talking about is not in some “no go” zone or a hotbed housing slum. It’s in the heart of Sydney. The sophisticated streets lined with corporate headquarters, cultural icons, and retail giants which turn very ugly at night.

You can get a drink pretty much any time of the night now. And not just in one or two bars, but dozens of them. Sure there are all kinds of laws about responsible drinking and serving of alcohol, but, from what I saw, those laws are laughed at. These bars and clubs load ‘em up and herd ‘em out just before the sun comes up. Hundreds of drunks spill out into the streets with no sense, no respect and no care. And then they fight.

And that’s where the NSW Public Order and Riot Squad, or PORS, steps in hard and fast.

You see, in New South Wales, the Police Commissioner has had enough. Andrew Scippione told me Sydney at night is drowning in a sea of alcohol – his words. So he’s sent in the Riot Squad. They were formed to deal with major social meltdowns like the Cronulla Race riots, but the bulk of their weekly work now is dealing with drunks and thugs in the heart of Sydney. And they don’t muck around. The Riot squad officers train hard, look hard and act hard. Step out of line on a Friday or Saturday night outside one of these packed bars and clubs, and you’ll have one of the Riot Squad officers in your face - fast.

Now, it might sound heavy-handed – and the unit has its critics - but take a ride with these cops and see what they confront every weekend. They try and talk people back from the edge of madness, but mostly there’s no point. They’re either that drunk or high, and so angry, that they’re going to hurt themselves and a lot of people around them. And its not just in the heart of the city, it could be a local footy match, a backyard party, or feuding guests at a wedding. As one of the Officers, Inspector Paul Condon, told me at the end of a shift: “If you took booze out of the equation on any of these nights, we wouldn’t have a job to do.”

We also met Senior Constable Sonia Turner. She’s 26, about 160 centimetres tall and one of only two women in the unit. And you do not want to mess around with Sonia. She’ll shut you down faster than you’d think. And that comes from some of the most intense training any police officers in Australia undertake. Sonia’s suffered two knee reconstructions and a broken wrist since she joined the squad, and they were injuries from training, not wrestling with a mob of drunks.

I was sceptical at first. I thought, like many, that this sort of policing was over the top, too heavy-handed. But then, after a few nights riding with the Riot Squad until dawn, you see that Sydney’s a very different city at night. Alcohol is a huge problem. And alcohol-related violence is just shocking. As Commissioner Scippione also said to me: “Sure, we’ve got a problem in Sydney, but it’s in every Australian city or town. It’s just that, in New South Wales, we’re doing something about it.”

To be honest, I’ve hit the town pretty hard at times myself … filled my tank at a few of those same bars and clubs we were patrolling. Mind you, that was a few years back, before family, and it’s staggering to see just how things have changed. These days, the level of drinking, anger and lack of respect for people, property and police is really quite scary.

So, with their paramilitary look, jet-black 4WD’s, kilos of heavy kit and attitude to match, the NSW Public Order and Riot Squad will be out there again tonight, indeed every night, under orders from the very top to stop Sydney’s drunks wrecking the city - and themselves.

Not everyone will agree with their tactics, but I think nearly everyone will see, very clearly, the problem.

User comments
I agree with the above comment. Things have to change with the police force and hospitals! Death Equity that benefits the policemen and Death Equity benefits for the hospitals! Kimberly Bridges book would make an excellent movie to help wisen up the public on what is going on in this world.
First the cops beating people up...although the laws need to change to get the bars to close earlier. It is as simple as that. Next it will be the doctors killing people just like in the book Death Equity by Kimberly Bridges. Doctors kill wealthy people so that they get a HUGE hospital donation!!! This is so like what happened to Michael Jackson! Her book has got to become a movie so everyone can see what goes on in hospitals! At least we have Cops to see some of the ongoings. Looks like we need a Cops show in Sydney!
To KelB, Ayr, well it appears that as long as these thugs of "police officers" are on our streets, it is clear from this section that it is not "safe to live and walk in public with out fear" because what we saw is that you are more likely to be attacked at random (and possibly killed) by one of these thugs than anyone else !!
For those of you who thought the force the police used was excessive i think you maybe correct,however the community has allowed this to get out of hand to the point we need to bring this back in order and if it takes banging a few heads together that is what needs to be done,It is only when a person gets direcly affected by crime that they are willing to do what they should be doing moniting whats happening in the comunity to ensure it is safe to live and walk in public with out fear.Change is needed to ensure our country is a safe place to live we do not have to be like other countries learn from their mistakes.
Mick, Sydney.. you have to ask yourself why people think this way of the police.. is it because like you saw in this video, the police treat the public like their personal punching bags and now have been dished out a weapon of torture (tazer) which they can use willy nilly on whomever they please and claim ignorance when a person dies as a direct result of a taze. Mick we support our cops, the good ones, what we cannot stand for is the kind of blatant abuse of power by some bored scumbags (as per this video), we also cannot allow a bunch of unprofessional thugs to be looking after our safety.. The lack of professionalisim is shown day after day, like the 14 year old Victorian child that was gang murdered by 5 police officers, shot 7 times.. this is unacceptable.. but then again, I guess if you want to be a child killer, you can just sign up to the police.. now THAT is SICKENING !!
To the people that write bad comments about Matt and the police. You guys seriously have no idea. How can you write supportive comments in regards to him getting punched first and then taken out from behind, thats wrong. Most of these people that write these negative comments about police if you think you can do a better job join. You see its easy to be critical and most people are in a cage not really knowing what the man and women in blue actually do. Its disgusting that the minority of Australians think like this. Support our cops, KEEP OUR COPS. GOOD WORK..PAT ON THE BACK!!!
To the idiots like Tony who say that anyone who has ever slagged the cops off should not have the right to call them.. thats fine by me, then the cops should not have the right to get PAID by ME either.. Simple fact is, they are PUBLIC SERVANTS.. i.e. the cops work FOR ME, why? BECAUSE I PAY YOUR SALARY.. we are telling you that you do not have the right to go around attacking the public randomly on the street and inflicting grevious bodily harm (as per the guy getting thrown to the pavement in the last clip) on the public. As for the case of Constable Matt Butcher, if you take the time to find the entire clip instead of the conveniently edited 60 minutes one, you will see that the situation was under control, Constable Matt Butcher then decided to escalate the situation further by using lethal force on the mans father, the man then ran in and headbutted the "Constable" and saved his fathers life, even though the father had to be resuscitated later as a direct result of this taze.
Australia is young and free , say no to a police state this is not nazi germany .
Matt Butcher was attacked from behind after defending himself from his attackers father. Had his father done as directed initially he wouldn't had been in the situation and possibly had more force been used by the police at the incident Matt Butcher wouldn't be in his current situation. This is the reason for lack of respect for the police the 12 idiots that let these three men walk away with little more than nothing want to take a look at themselves. The Sydney riot squad is unfortunatly the way the streets are going. Every town has at least one person who thinks they are better than the law and if the law backs down they walk all over them and everyone else. If Police no longer have the power to stop people acting like utter idiots than who has??
Beth I think you missed my point. I'm sickened by the attack on Matt Butcher (a story I've followed since last year). My point is that the likelihood of more of these acquittals will increase if jury members in similar future cases have the preconception that the police are violent and aggressive and attack people. I, of course, agree that thugs and the violent scum need to be tackled and personally I think violence should be met with violence. If, say, a man attacks a woman in the street and gets his face smashed in by a police baton I wouldn't care less. My problem is that on the programme we saw an officer push someone into the road and saw another officer strike someone very violently in the throat causing them to crash to the ground, either of whom could have been injured (like officer Butcher). They weren't arrested because they had committed no crime. If some police attack people like this we can never hope to get justice from the courts for Matt Butcher or others like. him.

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