25th September 2021

Equipping Police with Water Cannon equipment can be a vexed question, with those that would seek to see demonstrators whose lawless behaviour should be ripped into line on one side, and tunnel-visioned liberationists, with a, how dare they, attitude and the ‘Police State’ mantra on the other.

We would argue that if you focus on somewhere near the centre, the water cannon should be an essential tool for Police.

Many of the issues driving community angst to demonstrate are driven by Government decisions, so while there is an imperfect government with a ’Tin ear ‘to the community, we will always have unrest irrespective of the partisan bent of the Government of the day.

Riots, in general, are spawned by extreme elements hijacking and riding on the back of genuine community concern to promote their extreme ideologies and ideals.  In many cases, their ideals may not be supported by the majority of demonstrators.

As with most of these conflicting issues, the Police are left to pick up the pieces and suffer injuries and abuse at the hands of rabble.

Moreover, the Police are always relentlessly scrutinised for innocuous reactions that can be portrayed adversely.

It would be interesting to see how these critics would fare standing in the police shoes. According to some, the Police are supposed to just stand there and be spat on, jostled, assaulted and abused and not react.

That is a moot point; as we already know, the critics would not be brave enough.

So, Police need the support of appropriate resources to minimise their risks, improve their effectiveness and reduce resource demands.

The protestors, however, have an alternate problem, how do they avoid being swept up in the fervour created by agitators and fall foul of the Police doing their job. The Police can’t possibly know which demonstrator spitting and abusing them is a genuine protestor pushed over the line or an agitator.

So, we need to increase the protection against serious harm and legal consequences for the genuine.

It seems to us that the issue is a bit of a ‘no brainer’ really.

A very wet demonstrator is likely to withdraw from the action and is a better option than an injured or arrested demonstrator losing their liberty for a cause and tying up Police resources.

Water Cannons used properly after appropriate warnings are issued, seek only to saturate the crowd in the first instance. Continued insurrection and the water jet will move any crowd and may lead to injuries but that would be a last resort and entirely at the discretion of the perpetrators.

A saturated demonstrator has a trip home to worry about, so the consequences of not obeying a lawful direction by Police will be a very uncomfortable and perhaps embarrassing ride home.

The alternative of being trampled by a Police horse, arrested, pepper-sprayed or hit with rubber bullets or tear gas, again makes the Water Cannon the best worst option.

The water cannon only converts to the jet stream for those who continue to defy the lawful directions.

The CAA calls on the Chief Commissioner to request the Government to urgently supply multiple Water Cannon crowd control vehicles with supporting legislation. At least two are required for refill overlaps and riotous behaviour on multiple fronts.

Any disputes as to the propriety of using this equipment should be fought in the Courts, not on the streets .

As a former Commissioner of an interstate Police Force once said, “We had a Sarrison six-wheel-drive ex-Military Personnel Carrier, water cannon in the shed and never used it.”

Maybe having it, was why it was never needed?


12th of April 2022
There is undeniable community angst about the Police response to certain anti-Vax, anti-Mandate demonstrations in this State. Much of that anger is directed at Police Command and we do not intend to argue justification, because we believe there is none.

If this was one isolated case, then that is one thing, but this behaviour was exercised time and again over an extended period aggravating people into even more social unrest.

The complete antithesis of what good police strategies should be.

What concerns us is the failure of our system of Government.

Apart from the Police making operational command decisions that aggravated the whole issue we ask what the Police Minister, the Premier and the Emergency Cabinet were doing, not to intervene because they have accountability in this matter equal to the Police command.

It was their rules police were required to enforce.

The most effective Policing strategy for demonstrations is passive resistance, holding a line, not the guerrilla warfare approach where individual police are allowed to break away and make strategic lunges into the fray.

These ill-disciplined high-risk forays degrade the police to no better than the demonstrators and may well be just as unlawful.

This latter strategy, of which there is overwhelming evidence, places both the police and the demonstrators at huge risk of injury and is never likely to achieve the objectives, which to this day remains unclear.

We have never understood why the Police Association did not intervene over the risk to their members whose interests they should be representing.

Putting Police in situations with badly flawed strategies at such huge personal risk is unforgivable.

Apart from the overall strategy failures, there were specific failures within the morass of Command, that need to be highlighted.

The CAA understands that it was the Victoria Police Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) who deployed ‘bean bag’ and ‘plastic baton’ (Rubber Bullets) munitions against crowds during the unauthorised COVID marches in Elizabeth Street and at the Shrine of Remembrance.

It has been reported to us that CIRT Police fired so many rounds at the Elizabeth Street incident that a car had to be despatched back to CIRT for resupply of ammunition. We have not confirmed this report.

We understand that CIRT makes a specific reference in its training that these weapons are not to be used in crowd control situations. Yet it is our understanding that both projectiles were indiscriminately deployed by CIRT against multiple targets during both incidents, contrary to both policy and training.

‘Bean bag’ rounds are shotgun projectiles fired from the Victoria Police Remington shotguns on issue to CIRT. Plastic ‘baton’ rounds (sometimes mistakenly called ‘rubber bullets’) are projectiles fired from 40mm grenade launchers. Both are usually used by specialist police, including CIRT, in the resolution of critical incidents such as Armed offenders, Terror or Hostage situations

These munitions are known as ‘less lethal’ because they are usually less likely to cause death than conventional ammunition fired from traditional police service weapons. Neither bean bag nor plastic baton rounds are considered totally ‘non-lethal’ as bean bag rounds have been known to penetrate targets causing wounding and death. This raises significant and serious questions as to whether their use at both Elizabeth Street and the Shrine constituted ‘reasonable force’ under the Crimes Act.

It is the CAA’s view that bean bag and plastic baton munitions should not be deployed for crowd control purposes. Both projectiles suffer from accuracy problems when used against moving targets or over distances greater than 15-20 metres. Both munitions can also cause very serious injury and, as seen overseas, lead to deaths if they strike vulnerable parts of the human anatomy. It follows that their use should be restricted to extremely limited circumstances.

The CAA acknowledges that these munitions are essential in certain high-risk situations against dangerous offenders. It is our view, however, that demonstrations and crowd control are not appropriate situations.

The CAA notes that demonstrators often use physical contact with Police as a technique to elicit an adverse response from Police to make their point and/or to gain media attention for their cause. That said, we fail to see why Force Command does not negate these actions (prevention) and reduce the risk of physical harm to Police and demonstrators by using proven tactics, like appropriate chemical agents and Water.

Euphemistically called, Water Cannons they should be procured urgenlty and deployed for these events as a matter of course.


Drenching people in an unlawful assembly will dampen the enthusiasm of all but the extremists bent on lawlessness, who can then be dealt with by the full force of the water.

It might be smart to acquire a couple of modified Bushmasters (locally built) that can have a dual purpose during the fire season making the deal cost-effective.
With water cannons, big is not always best, two midsized vehicles would give flexibility to commanders and the ability to interchange to maintain pressure while refilling.
A former Commissioner from another state has lamented that his police force had a Water Cannon, but it was never used.
Perhaps having it was the reason they never had to use it.