More than a year after a man was fatally shot by a police officer in Sydney, one of the city’s leading public servants is taking a different approach to policing.
On Wednesday, the police commissioner, Andrew Scipione, said his force had made significant changes to its policing culture in the wake of the fatal shooting, including an overhaul of its mental health and family unit.
The commissioner said he had no regrets about the way the force responded to the man’s death, saying the officer, Daniel Pugh, was “the best police officer I have ever worked with”.
“There is no excuse for this incident, nor for the behaviour of the officers,” Mr Scipio said.
“My concern is that the officers in question have been disciplined.
That’s the way you have to operate, you have a disciplinary process.”
If you don’t follow that process, you can get a very harsh sentence.
“The community should never be treated as a target for reprisal.”
Mr Scipion said the police had also “taken an aggressive stance” against violent crime, and had increased its involvement in the community, particularly in the north-east.
“There’s a lot of work to do, and we’re determined to get there,” he said.
Mr Scibone said he was aware of the concerns raised by the families of the two officers, but said he believed the behaviour had been dealt with.
He said that “in the course of a full investigation and independent review” of the incident, the Police Integrity Commission would also be consulted.
The force has also been making changes to community policing, Mr Scibones said.
In March, the force also began a “community-driven response” to homelessness, with the aim of making it more accessible to people living on the street.
In August, the organisation began the launch of a new helpline, the Lifeline Lifeline, to help people living rough on the streets.
Earlier this month, the chief constable of Sydney’s west, David Brown, was also the first to be named by the police union as its president.
Police union chief Mike Edwards said the chief was well placed to take on the challenge of improving the police culture, particularly among young people.
Asked whether he was concerned that the public would be less tolerant of the behaviour seen by the officers, Mr Brown said: “Not at all.
The police force, in this case, is very good at it.”
Mr Brown said that while there was an element of “misplaced blame” among police officers, the vast majority of them acted within the law and “acted professionally”.
“They were doing the right thing,” he told the ABC.
Despite the new emphasis on community policing and the changes in the relationship between the police and the community since the incident in September, Mr Edwards said he would be “incredibly disappointed” if the relationship remained as adversarial as it had been.
“I think it’s going to be very difficult for the police to maintain that relationship,” he added.
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