How Much Force Can a NSW Police Officer Use?

Image credit: Ramvespa

Poppy Morandin.


A 16-year-old boy has been shot in the leg following a confrontation with police in NSW’s Central West.

Officers from Central West Police District were in pursuit of a Ute, which had been reported as stolen.

The Ute stopped at Daroobalgie Road, Forbes, shortly after 3am, with the driver fleeing the vehicle.

The driver was then pursued by police on foot.

It is alleged that a second vehicle then drove at officers, which led to them firing their guns.

As a result, a 16-year-old boy suffered a gunshot wound to his left calf.

He was treated at the scene by NSW Ambulance paramedics before being airlifted to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead in a stable condition.

Two other teens – aged 16 – were arrested at the scene and taken to Parkes Police Station.

One was charged with destroy or damage property, two counts of intimidate police officer in execution of duty, and two counts of be carried in conveyance taken without consent of owner.

He was refused bail to appear at a Children’s Court.

A second was charged with take & drive conveyance without consent of owner, police pursuit – not stop – drive recklessly, and be carried in conveyance taken without consent of owner.

He was granted conditional bail to appear at a Children’s Court.

A fourth teen was seen running from the scene, with police utilising the Dog Unit in attempts to locate the person.

Following further inquiries, the fourth teen – aged 16 – was arrested at his residence and taken to Parkes Police Station.

However, they were released, pending further investigation.

A critical incident team has been established from the Orana Mid-West Police District to investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident, including the discharge of a police firearm.

This investigation will then be subject to an independent review.

During ‘critical incident’ investigations, the police are to consider the lawfulness and reasonableness of their actions, whether it complies with relevant legislation and policies, any complaints, and any evidence of officer misconduct.

Incidents that will be subject to a ‘critical incident’ investigation include where death or serious injury of someone (other than a police officer) has occurred and it arose from:

  • A discharge of a firearm by an involved police officer,
  • the use or operation of defensive equipment by a police officer,
  • the application of physical force by an officer while exercising any function as a police officer,
  • the use of a police vehicle by an officer involved (including its use as a passenger).

It may also arise if the death or serious injury occurred whilst the person is in custody, or while escaping or attempting to escape from custody, or it appears to be likely to have resulted from any police operation.

How Much Force Can a NSW Police Officer Use?

As outlined in section 230 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (NSW), police officers may exercise force ‘as is reasonably necessary’ to exercise their powers.

This is reinforced by section 231, which states that police officers who exercise the power to arrest another person may use such force as is reasonably necessary to make the arrest or to prevent the escape of the person after arrest.

What is considered reasonable will depend on the circumstances of the incident and will include the level of resistance.

Other considerations include the suspect’s age, gender, size, fitness, and skill level compared to that of the officers present.

If a use of force is deemed to be ‘excessive’ and beyond what is considered reasonable, the officers actions will be found unlawful.

This leaves them open to charges, similar to any normal citizen.

In addition, you may also be able to sue the NSW Police Force for compensation in civil proceedings.

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