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?