The manufacturer of the Colt M4 Carbine describes it as the "weapon of the 21st century warfighter", and now it will be carried by NSW officers.
Elite police officers have been armed with high-powered military rifles, as NSW Police takes the fight to terrorists and organised crime figures.
Forty-seven cops from the Public Order and Riot Squad have been issued Colt M4 carbines — an intimidating semi-automatic weapon that is touted as the “United States’ Armed Forces weapon of choice”. The 50 other squad members will be trained to handle the firearm by the middle of next year.
The introduction of the assault rifle was first announced in June by NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller.
“We will work quickly with government to train officers and roll out long-arm firearms to officers across the metropolitan area,” he told News Corp at the time.
And it certainly has been a quick turnaround, with the added security measure in operation in time for New Years Eve.
At this stage the guns will be stowed in vehicles and not seen in public, but that would change if the current terror threat rose from ‘probable’ to ‘expected’.
“One of the keys is if there was a change in the threat level from probable to higher then there is no point saying to you ‘I want to have a long-arm capability’,” he said.
“So I suppose the first [step] is if there was a change in the national terrorist threat level then I can put long arms on the street today.
“We are ready to go. If there was a specific threat somewhere they would be deployed either in a preventative way or a destructive way or we can respond.”
Deputy Commissioner (Investigations and Special Tactics) Dave Hudson said research had shown “most incidents overseas have occurred at a distance over 25 metres and up to a distance of 100 metres”, and the Colt M4s are proven to be more effective over that range than the standard general duties-issued Glock.
“Obviously the carrying of these firearms creates a deterrent effect as well, as well as resolving an incident,” Mr Hudson said.
“So based on the nature of the incident that we are responding to, or the public issue that we are attending, there may be a need to sling these firearms and for the Public Order and Riot Squad to forward deploy with them.
“That will be an assessment made on a case-by-case basis based on a number of situations and circumstances which will feed into risk assessments.”
Mr Fuller has also suggested that the firearm could be rolled out to the entire force in the not-too-distant future.
“It’s not a big leap to take that next step. It’s certainly possible but not in the coming months. We need to continue that conversation.”
He says he has been bailed up on the street by Sydneysiders protesting the move towards “European style policing”, but after weighing up the risks and finding the most suitable firearm he is comfortable with the decision.
“Difficult decisions have to be made and for mine, this was the right one,” he said.
And after test-firing the rifle himself, his confidence in the firearm has only increased. He says with no training at all he shot the Colt M4 with “dead point” accuracy from 100 metres.
It follows the introduction of legislation by the state government, preventing officers from facing criminal charges if they pre-emptively shoot or kill a suspected terrorist.
“As we have seen as recently as this week in Melbourne and on the weekend with the cowardly, evil acts in London, we need to be ever-vigilant to the emerging and evolving risks of terrorism,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said in a statement in June.
“NSW will continue to have the toughest counter-terror laws in the country and we will now give our police clear protections if they need to use lethal force against terrorists.”