Active Armed Offender

This research substantially influenced NSWPF training procedures, policy and resource allocation with state and nationwide implications.

In 2014 the NSW Police Force (NSWPF) assessed that its broadly implemented, conventional ‘contain and negotiate’ strategy was not appropriate in Active Armed Offender (AAO) situations. At this time, the NSWPF approached Charles Sturt University Psychology researchers A/Prof Gene Hodgins and Prof Anthony Saliba to conduct an international literature review, to identify worlds-best-practice and provide the NSWPF with evidence-based recommendations for how police should respond to ‘active shooter’ incidents.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

This research supports United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

Goal 4 - Quality educationGoal 11 - Sustainable cities and communities

The research

The Charles Sturt University research team made several evidence-based recommendations.

These included that a clear ‘active shooter’ policy and procedure was required by the NSWPF to guide their members responses to ‘active shooter’ incidents, and that this policy and procedure should encapsulate that police first responders actively seek to neutralize the offender only after being given appropriate training (such as from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Texas State University ALERRT (Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training) and access to appropriate resources (e.g. firearms and protective equipment).

Program highlights

  • The existing NSWPF ‘contain and negotiate’ strategy was not appropriate
  • Charles Sturt researchers developed recommendations for ‘best practice’ response to active armed offender incidents
  • Recommendations from the research were adopted by NSWPF and other Australian jurisdictions
  • Over 10,000 officers trained in the new procedures
  • Led to a new firearms policy

Program impact

The research recommended new rapid response training, and the use of appropriate firearms and protective equipment. The NSWPF adopted the recommendations and have since trained over 10,000 officers in the new AAO tactics, and implemented a new firearms policy. Other Police jurisdictions have also used the recommendations.

Staff Biographies

Associate Professor Gene Hodgins

Associate Professor Gene Hodgins has a background as a clinical psychologist. A/Prof Hodgins' research interests include:

  • Improving the mental health of rural people and communities through improved training for clinicians, strategies to reduce stigma and avenues to enhance community education
  • Improving the mental health of workers who have to endure stress and trauma as part of their job, such as police and other emergency service personnel
  • Improving the mental health of people suffering anxiety and depression, whose distress can sometimes be less visible but not less impactful than other mental illnesses.

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Professor Anthony Saliba

Professor Anthony Saliba has research interests in perceptual psychology, and how we interpret sensory experiences to make decisions. Prof. Saliba's other interest is in taking a positive psychology approach to understand how people cope with common psychological disorders.

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Funding and collaborators

Research into how police respond to ‘active armed offenders’ developed from Charles Sturt’s long-standing relationship with the NSWPF as its education provider. The NSWPF funded the collaborative research.

The research was strongly engaged with the NSWPF who co-developed aims and objectives, and provided access to resources. Without such engagement the research would not have been possible.

Charles Sturt University aims to create a world worth living in

How police respond during mass shootings or vehicle mass deaths is a significant community safety issue. This is illustrated unfortunately through tragic events worldwide. In each situation, general duties police are among the first on-site and their response is crucial to protect the public against further threat.

The Charles Sturt research substantially influenced NSWPF training procedures, policy and resource allocation, including a significant alteration in firearms policy, at significant expense and procedural change, with state and nationwide implications for the training of police personnel and the safety of the community.

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