Chris Kenny claims police should have been narrow-minded

Chris Kenny seems to think that police shouldn’t try to prevent crime when he writes in The Australian:

When most Australians would have thought the only priority of police at the time would have been to save the lives of the hostages, we learn they were concerning themselves also with “community harmony” and “tolerance”.

Nobody can claim that police didn’t give priority to saving the lives of the hostages: an officer was on the scene within five minutes, followed quickly by incident specialists and a negotiator. The question is whether saving lives should have been ‘the only priority’.

I haven’t worked in emergency services, but I have worked in incident management. I know from experience that as soon as an incident manager has an ‘only priority’, they’ve stopped doing their job properly. There are two basic priorities in successful incident management: Firstly, you have to get the right people and tools, and get them working to resolve the incident as quickly as possible. Secondly, you have to prevent the incident from creating other problems and incidents.

Many Australians would have forgotten the Cronulla riots by the time of the Lindt Siege. Any police officer worthy of senior leadership would have remembered them. If I were managing response to the Lindt Siege, I would want all of the best officers and the best equipment responding to the Lindt Cafe. I would not want to receive a call saying, “Listen, you’re still our top priority, but five thousand people have started smashing things, so if you can spare anyone, let me know.”

In other words, if I were the incident manager for the Lindt Siege, I’d want to have absolute confidence that my boss was doing their job — taking care of the media message, including community harmony. If I was that incident manger’s boss, I’d send my very best people and trust them: then I’d do my job (which is crime prevention first, crime response second). Assault and criminal damage are crimes, and they often occur when a portion of the community is blamed for someone else’s actions.

In other words, two of the many priorities that deserved police attention during the Lindt Siege were ‘community harmony’ and ‘tolerance’. Did good management prevent another riot? That’s the problem with prevention, when it works, you never know for sure.

(EDIT: Ummm, thanks Medium, but no, ‘BlackLivesMatter’ is not an appropriate tag for this post.)

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