The necessity to use force is not uncommon in Western Australian prisons and, therefore, it is critical for prison staff to know what it is and when it can be lawfully used. A new use of force policy, introduced in May 2020, clarifies some elements of confusion that previously existed. But it appears that the changes are yet to be fully understood and implemented by staff and that a continuation of historical practice may be contributing to ongoing confusion. This points to a need for additional training to ensure that the practices and and processes required by the new policy become embedded in day to day operations.
The Department of Justice has established a sound internal oversight mechanism for use of force incidents. This should help build better practice through post-incident review and learning. But the risks regarding the use of force are such that internal oversight should not be limited to reactive review. An ongoing process of operational review that looks at tactics, techniques and equipment, is needed to build public confidence, and ensure contemporary best practice is followed.
The purpose of independent review should not be a means of simply identifying abuse or excess, its primary purpose should be the objective review of incidents to identify and implement good practice and opportunities for improvement.