Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll has been forced into an embarrsing back down on the banning of a controversial chokehold – the second time in a week the Union has strongarmed the top cop.
The lateral vascular neck restraint (LVNR) was banned on April 14 following a 12-month review, but yesterday – after lobbying from the powerful police union – Ms Carroll clarified the manoeuvre could still be used by officers to prevent death or serious injury.
The backdown comes a week after Ms Carroll scrapped her signature Service Delivery Redesign Project (SDRP), which was aimed at streamlining frontline policing.
The LVNR technique was also taken out of police training.
The ban was opposed by the powerful Queensland Police Union, with president Ian Leavers saying the move was a “kneejerk reaction”.
The union took the matter to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission. It’s understood the proceedings were discontinued on an agreement the Commissioner withdraw the original ban.
Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said the original ban on the LVNR was unlawful.
“I and all police always knew the Commissioner of police was acting unlawfully when she unilaterally issued an unlawful direction to ban police using LVNR,” he said.
“Thankfully the QPU has now overturned this unlawful direction.
“The QPU never enter into commencing proceedings against the Commissioner of police lightly however we knew we had to keep police safe, even if the Commissioner wasn’t, and now the Commissioner’s original unlawful direction has been rescinded, the QPU has ensured that police can again use the LVNR to defend themselves.”
Ms Carroll said on April 14, at the time of the ban, that the QPS would be aligned with the rest of the country by banning the LVNR.
An inquest has found a chokehold technique used by Queensland Police has caused death and serious injury in five cases of men who resisted arrest over the past 20 years. A secret review by a Queensland Police working group has approved the continued use of the Lateral Vascular Neck Restraint despite it being banned by police services across the rest of the country. Calls for a renewed ban of the technique has prompted Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carrol to personally review its use.
“While it has been available to officers for a long time in Queensland, the options for officers to apply force in challenging and life-threatening situations have increased and broadened since its introduction over 30 years ago,” she said.
Ms Carroll on Monday told police that while she originally directed that LVNR no longer be a use of force option, it could now be used by officers in some situations.
“I wish to make it clear that while a decision has been made for the LVNR to no longer be a QPS-approved open hand tactics technique and should not be used in the course of your ordinary policing duties, this does not affect the application of statutory provisions concerning force that may lawfully be used to prevent death or grievous bodily harm,” Ms Carroll wrote on Monday.
“To be clear, I therefore revoke my direction dated 14 April 2023 in regard to the use of the LVNR and make a new direction.
“I direct the LVNR is to cease immediately as a use of force option in the course of an officer’s ordinary policing duties. To be clear this direction does not affect the application of statutory provisions concerning force that may lawfully be used to prevent death or grievous bodily harm.”
Ms Carroll went on to quote legislation that officers had at their disposal to protect themselves in life threatening situations.
“Section 616 of the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 applies if a police officer reasonably suspects a person is doing, or is about to do, something likely to cause grievous bodily harm to, or the death of, another person and the police officer reasonably suspects they cannot prevent the grievous bodily harm or death other than through the use of force. In that circumstance a police officer can use any force necessary, including that likely to cause grievous bodily harm or death.
“Similarly, section 271 of the Criminal Code allows a person who is unlawfully assaulted in such a way as to cause reasonable apprehension of death or grievous bodily harm, and who believes on reasonable grounds that they cannot otherwise defend themselves from death or grievous bodily harm, to lawfully use any force necessary for defence. Section 273 of the Criminal Code extends this also to the defence of another person.
“I appreciate your role in protecting the community, yourself and your colleagues, and trust that the above provides the necessary clarification.”
Last night a spokesman for the Police Commissioner said the LVNR was removed as a use of force option for Queensland Police Service (QPS) in April and a direction to cease using the technique remains in place.
“There has been no backflip and no change in this decision. It has been removed from skills training,” he said.
“A clarifying direction was issued to QPS officers on Monday reaffirming that the LVNR not be used in the course of ordinary policing duties.
“The updated direction makes it clear that the direction does not affect the application of statutory provisions concerning force that may lawfully be used to prevent death or grievous bodily harm following concerns raised by the QPUE.”