Tasmania Police Special Operations Group

Special Operations Group
Active1979–present
CountryAustralia
AgencyTasmania Police
TypePolice tactical unit
Role
Part ofSpecial Response and Counter-Terrorism Unit
HeadquartersHobart
Motto"Si Opus Sit"
Where There is Need
Common nameSoggies
Sons of God
AbbreviationSOG
Structure
Operators30
Notables
Significant operation(s)Port 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. The SOG is transitioning to become a full-time group by 2024.

Mission

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.

History

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.

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 and was in possession of a 5.56mm AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and a 7.62mm FN FAL semi-automatic 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.

In the 2013–14 financial year, the SOG conducted eight high risk deployments which had by 2017-18 increased by 150% to 20 high-risk deployments. On 8 December 2018, the SOG tactically resolved a 16 hour siege at a residence in Trevallyn in which at least 33 shots were fired from the residence arresting a man and a woman.

Organisation

All SOG members are part-time, except four, 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.

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.

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. There has been calls to make the SOG full-time. In 2003, ten SOG officers positions were converted to full-time to establish a full-time team to augment the twenty part-time SOG officers. In 2007, the full-time team's role changed to administrative tasked with coordinating training and equipment and was downsized to four officers to be ultimately ended in 2012. In 2018, the government announced funding would be provided to re-establish a full-time core SOG, and in 2019, announced that four SOG officers positions would be converted to full-time in 2020. In November 2020, the government announced funding for a further twenty full time SOG officers, whose initial duties will also include COVID-19 response. The SOG will have twenty dedicated officers by 2024 based in Hobart and Launceston.

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.

Role

The SOG roles are:

Training

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.

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.

45 training days are allocated a year to maintain these skills and there is participation in the ANZCTC Police Tactical Group Skills Enhancement Courses with the 2nd Command Regiment and Special Air Service Regiment.

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

Equipment

The SOG is equipped with less-than-lethal equipment that is not issued to general duties officers including the Taser. In June 2012, the SOG took delivery of a Lenco BearCat replacing their Mercedes-Benz Sprinter based Armoured Tactical Vehicle (ATV) acquired in 2006.

In May 2019, the government allocated A$1 million in the 2019-20 State Budget to build a facility for the northern based SOG and also A$400,000 for new equipment with A$100,000 to be allocated each year over four years. In August 2021, the government allocated A$3.6 million in the 2021-22 State Budget to build a facility for the southern based SOG.

See also


This page was last updated at 2023-07-13 08:06 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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