Auburn riot fears halt raids, police say

November 16, 2009

Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione has denied being involved in ordering a postponement of a raid in Auburn last week in which a man was arrested allegedly carrying a gun and drugs.

Commissioner Scipione said the decision had been taken by local commanders who had to carry out a risk assessment before the raid.

‘‘They also ensure that the operation is conducted in a way that maximises the margins for safety so that our officers aren’t becoming victims of crimes as a result of an operation that may as well have been executed more efficiently at another time.’’

‘‘The operational commanders that had responsibility for that particular matter did their job, did it well, professionally, got the outcome they desired.’’

‘‘I haven’t got any issues. I didn’t communicate with anyone with regards to any concerns or any worries because I didn’t have any.’’

‘‘I didn’t order any postponement. I don’t have any concerns,’’ he said.

Several officers have told the Herald they are being forced to delay raids looking for guns and drugs because the NSW Police Force executive is fearful of the negative publicity that would result from a riot in the area.

In early September, officers from the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad raided four houses in Auburn and a large crowd gathered to watch. Senior police were concerned about the potential for violence and called the riot squad.

Three people were arrested for allegedly assaulting police, but officers say the incident was far from a riot. ”It was a couple of kids throwing rocks,” one said.

A raid last week on an Auburn man in which officers were looking for a handgun and drugs was delayed at least 12 hours – leaving the man with a deadly weapon for another night – because the riot squad and the tactical operations unit were not available.

”Here’s a bloke who’s got a gun. Carries it. And we’ve got the warrants to take it off him but we had to wait. We had to wait only for concern about adverse publicity, not because of concerns for our officers’ safety,” one officer said.

So intense is the scrutiny, one relatively junior officer received an email straight from the Commissioner of Police, Andrew Scipione, asking about the raid.

They are frustrated that the riot squad is not always available – it doesn’t work Monday or Tuesday – and they are forced to delay critical raids. ”It’s riot by appointment,” one officer said.

But the commander of the Middle Eastern Crime Squad, Deb Wallace, said the riot squad’s unavailability was not the only reason the raid was delayed.

”The operation was delayed by a day for a variety of operation reasons, not just the decision to involve [the public order and riot squad],” she said. ”It was a highly successful operation that went off without incident.”

The raid on the Auburn man was the latest in a series to try to keep a lid on simmering local tensions between two crime groups.

Police have expressed concern the feud between the Parramatta chapter of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club and the street gang Notorious may erupt again.

Last summer there were several drive-by shootings in south-western and western Sydney believed to be related to that feud. It culminated in a gun battle in Auburn in March, with dozens of bullets hitting houses.

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