6th of June 2022

Recently the Community Advocacy Alliance Inc. (CAA) criticised the use by Victoria Police of Bean Bag projectiles in crowd control. We stand by that criticism. https://caainc.org.au/bean-bags-and-plastic-baton-munitions-are-not-the-way-for-crowd-control/

In our view, they must never be deployed in crowd control situations like in Elizabeth Street and the Shrine during COVID related demonstrations or where people are undergoing psychotic episodes. And then only when all other avenues are exhausted, and there is an imminent danger to Police or others.

It has been alleged that many Police were injured in these demonstrations, hence the justification for Bean Bag munitions.

If they were, it had more to do with poor or ineffective Command and Control leaving Police vulnerable. There was substantial evidence on the nightly news that Command and Control were regularly failing, and when it does, that is when most Police are injured.

The police executives are singularly and solely responsible.

The Victoria Police has a sophisticated surveillance capacity and can live stream detailed action to a command center in real-time. But unfortunately, the executives either didn’t bother to look or didn’t recognise the failings unfolding before them and how to deal with them, incompetency.

Repeat performances showed that they clearly took no action. But it is unclear if the Bean Bag use was authorised or who authorised their deployment.

As with the Bourke Street massacre there appears to be a deliberate policy for the Executive Command not to take a leadership role. With the plethora of executive level Officers in VicPol, surely the lessons would have been learnt from Bourke Street and any number of other Police incidents that effective Operational Command and Control is essential and delegating that responsibility totally to the lowest ranks is a unacceptable and an abrogation of responsibility.

The Elizabeth Street foray was not a few random shots but allegedly sustained and repetitious fire of many rounds, a yippee shoot requiring additional ammunition to be sourced.

Bean Bag projectiles are munitions that can cause serious injury, with the possibility of fatal consequences.

They are not simply a corduroy shoe polisher filled with beans instead of fabric. They are twelve-gauge shotgun cartridges with nine-shot lead pellets and various other materials depending on the brand of the round used.

Marketed by suppliers as non-lethal, they can only be described, at best, as potentially less lethal; they are serious munitions.

The graphic photographs depicted here show just how dangerous these projectiles are and the damage that can be caused to one person by just three rounds of the six fired, reinforcing that these rounds are wildly inaccurate, making unintended outcomes a severe risk.

The extreme danger of the proximity to major organs and arteries cannot be discounted.

Leg wound

Leg wound

Post op arm wound                              


Nearly 100 pellets removed from the arm.







Stomach wound.

While the incident resulting in these wounds was not crowd control related, the physical harm suffered by the individual concerned, who was heavily intoxicated and undergoing a psychotic episode, amply illustrates the recklessness of using Bean Bag munitions as the go-to weapon.

Victoria Snelgrove, a twenty-two-year-old student bystander to a Boston demonstration, was shot in the eye with a bean bag round and died shortly after. The Officer involved claimed he was aiming at somebody else.

Victoria Stengrove



We also reject the defence of the use of bean bags when dealing with patients undergoing a psychotic episode, that psych services are not readily available in the real world of policing; this is an operational reality that management must address and resolve.

Standard operating procedures mean Police are often screaming at a suspect for compliance, which exacerbates any psychotic episode. We accept that Police do not always know if a suspect has the propensity for such outbursts, but part of the police procedure should be to make an effort to find out.

Although it is not always practical, expeditious resolution of an issue where nobody is in direct threat of harm should not be the objective. Instead, the safe resolution for the Police, the community, and the patient/perpetrator must be the primary consideration.

Most importantly, Executive Officers, theoretically the most experienced and capable, often do not assume command in serious incidents; why not?

This is yet another example of where the Executive is letting down the Operational members by not ensuring they are adequately resourced and supported. In these operational matters, a lack of psych resources and effective command and control could be the difference between life or death for the Police or the patient.

Police must be satisfied that all other available resources, including de-escalation techniques and Mental Health Services, are deployed before using these weapons.

The use of containment, not engagement, must be the first option.

The CAA again calls on the Victoria Police to review their policy on the use of potentially lethal weapons where Police members or others are not at imminent life-threatening risk.

On the matter of policy, and to properly inform, we have made a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to view the current policy on using these munitions. The information is not operationally sensitive and should be within the knowledge of the community.

We have been told that the information requested will not be available within the statutory four weeks but hopefully within twenty-seven weeks.

Over six months is a deliberate strategy designed to make inquiries disappear or lose relevance.

If they cannot be dealt with in the four weeks, then it is another management failure by VicPol, and nothing will change until the responsible Executive is held to account, not some clerk.