Beacon of Hope? Lessons learned from efforts to reduce civilian deaths from police shootings in an Australian state

Saligari, Jessica and Evans, Richard 2016, Beacon of Hope? Lessons learned from efforts to reduce civilian deaths from police shootings in an Australian state, Journal of urban health, vol. 93, no. Supplement 1, pp. 78-88, doi: 10.1007/s11524-015-9996-6.

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Title Beacon of Hope? Lessons learned from efforts to reduce civilian deaths from police shootings in an Australian state
Author(s) Saligari, Jessica
Evans, RichardORCID iD for Evans, Richard
Journal name Journal of urban health
Volume number 93
Issue number Supplement 1
Start page 78
End page 88
Total pages 13
Publisher Springer
Place of publication Berlin, Germany
Publication date 2016-04
ISSN 1468-2869
Keyword(s) mental illness
police use of force
police use of firearms
civilian deaths caused by police
mental health
Victoria -- Australia
vulnerable communities
Operation Beacon
Summary In the 1990s, the police service in Victoria, Australia, faced a crisis of community confidence due to a spate of civilian deaths from police shootings. In that decade, twice as many civilians died at the hands of the police in Victoria than in every other Australian state combined. Most of those killed were mentally ill and affected by drugs and alcohol, and were rarely a serious threat except to themselves. The problem was also almost entirely an urban phenomenon. Shootings in rural communities, where mentally ill people were more likely to be personally known to local police, were (and remain) almost unknown. The large number of fatalities was recognised as a serious threat to public confidence, and Victoria Police introduced a ground-breaking training programme, Operation Beacon. Operating procedures and weapons training were fundamentally changed, to focus on de-escalation of conflict and avoiding or minimising police use of force. In the short term, Operation Beacon was successful. Shooting incidents were dramatically reduced. However, during the first decade of the new century, the number of civilians being killed again increased. This article examines Operation Beacon, both as a successful model for reducing civilian deaths at the hand of police and as a cautionary tale for police reform. We argue that the lessons of Operation Beacon have been gradually forgotten and that old habits and attitudes resurfaced. Fatal shootings of mentally ill civilians can be prevented, but if success is to be other than temporary, the Beacon philosophy must be continually reemphasised by police management.
Language eng
DOI 10.1007/s11524-015-9996-6
Field of Research 160299 Criminology not elsewhere classified
Socio Economic Objective 940499 Justice and the Law not elsewhere classified
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
Copyright notice ©2015, New York Academy of Medicine
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Document type: Journal Article
Collection: School of Humanities and Social Sciences
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