GRAFTON STAND-OFF: Did too many police respond?
THE first responders have been praised for how they handled a risky confrontation with a 29-year-old man in Grafton just 400 metres from the scene of a fatal shooting three years ago.
At 9.30am Sunday police, fire and ambulance crews were called to a Turf St address in relation to a concern for welfare for the man who resided there.
After police first arrived at the scene the man posted a three-minute livestream video on social media from his shed armed with a knife and making alleged threats to the police outside.
“The f****** are here, the piggies, I’m ready for ‘em boys. Watch me roar,” the man said during the live video.
“I’ll put you all on here live, so you can watch me get ‘em.
“Live on Facebook, me getting shot by coppers.”
In August 2017 Grafton police shot and killed a knife-wielding man after a violent rampage in nearby North St.
In June this year a coronial inquest found Grafton Police Sergeant Dallas Leven acted in self-defence when during the stand-off he fired two shots after 44-year-old Christopher McGrail raised his knife and lunged at him, despite many commands and requests to drop the knife.
Sgt Leven was at the scene on Sunday attempting to speak with the man.
The incident prompted authorities to bring in tactical support. After a two-hour stand-off the man eventually surrendered of his own volition, he was arrested and no one was physically injured.
“When people are in this agitated state it can become quite confronting for everyone including the public, so a very good result for all included, especially our police,” Coffs-Clarence Acting Inspector Richard Garrels.
“At the end of the day we want everyone to be safe, so we deployed the resources that we required on the day.”
However, members of the public who witnessed the incident raised concerns about the heavy presence of police at the scene.
Vanessa Archer is a psychiatric nurse who drove past the scene during the morning, and returned to witness the surrender and arrest take place along with several other bystanders across the road.
“This man is clearly unwell, normal people do not behave in this manner,” she told reporters.
“There is an immense show of force from police, and also I see police in military fatigues for this man who is clearly mentally unwell, distressed, and came out semi-naked with his hands in the air.
“What I want to know is if they’ve got the funds to put this many cops here, where’s the mental health support?
“If they truly believed he was willing to blow up the house, or cause harm to himself or someone else, where was the psychiatric support?”
After the arrest the man was arrested by police and taken by ambulance to Grafton Police Station for questioning, before being transported to Coffs Harbour Hospital for assessment.
A NSW Police Force spokesperson said the first priority in any situation is the safety of the community.
“The priority of the NSW Police Force has and continues to be the safety of the community and protecting them from risk of serious harm,” the spokesperson said.
“Once a person is in custody their medical needs are the first priority.”
Coffs/Clarence Police confirmed on Tuesday morning charges are yet to be laid pending the man’s release from Coffs Harbour Health Campus.
Assistant Commissioner Leanne McCusker said the NSW Police Force is committed to its focus on providing a proactive policing response to people within our community living with a mental illness.
“Our challenge is to build upon the good work of police who are continually confronted with increasing volume of incidents which can be quite complex,” she said on the NSW Police Force Corporate Sponsor’s 2020 Message on mental health.
“The NSW Police Force is committed to improving the capability of police officers and other frontline staff through effective training of de-escalation techniques, management and referral options for persons affected by mental illness and disorders.”
NSW Police Force officers are instructed to align themselves with the objectives of a 2018 Memorandum of Understanding, working closely with NSW Health and other key agencies to improve safety and build confidence in protecting vulnerable persons.
“The NSW Police Force Mental Health Intervention Team continues to evolve to meet the complex challenges posed by mental health and suicide prevention issues within the community.
“The two-day Mental Health Enhanced Police Practice Module is now into its 12th year of delivery and has resulted in 3,000 officers becoming trained as specialists and assuming the role of prioritised first responders to mental health related incidents within their police area commands and police districts.
“In 2019, the NSW Police Force responded to 54,571 mental health related incidents across the state,” Ass Comm McCusker said.
“One in five persons within the community suffers from a mental health issue in any given year, and over half of us will experience a mental health issue at some stage during our lifetime.
“As a result, the number of mental health incidents the NSWPF are called upon to attend and resolve continues to grow exponentially each year.”
In April this year NSW Health announced funding of $73 million to help support the mental health and wellbeing of people across NSW.
More information on police mental health training is available on here.
Did this reporting raise any issues for you? For crisis support call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or for domestic violence help call 1800 737 732.
NATIONAL 24/7 CRISIS SERVICES
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78
beyondblue: 1300 22 46 36
Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800