Police Commissioner Karen Webb has vowed to add 30 new members to the controversial Strike Force Raptor.
Raptor started in 2009 as a proactive, high-impact operation targetting outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCGs).
The Squad has come under fire for their aggressive tactics and lawlessness, and the over-militarisaion of the force.
The latest shooting of Comanchero bike boss Tarek Zahed sparked the Commissioner to bolster numbers.
Bikie boss’ brother shot dead
Omar Zahed, 39, was shot dead inside of a Bodyfit Gym on Parramatta Road in Auburn on Tuesday night. His brother, Comanchero bike boss Tarek Zahed, 41, remains in a critical condition in hospital. NSW Police had informed Tarek that there was a multi-million dollar bounty on his head.
The attack is the 12th fatal gang shooting in two years on Sydney’s streets.
For comparison there have been over 13 deaths in custody in NSW in the two years between 2020 and 2022, and 52 deaths by domestic violence in 2020 and 2021.
Commissioner Webb expressed the very real fear that a by-stander will become collateral.
“That’s my greatest fear, that someone will be hit in crossfire, the wrong person will get hit and an innocent member of the public will be killed,” Ms Webb said.
“It will be zero tolerance. We know who we are targeting. We are not targeting mums and dads, we are targeting criminals.”
Strike Force Raptor stalking and intimidating solicitor
Strike Force Raptor came under fire in the past over the seemingly lawless approach to ‘justice’.
Last year Raptor was told off by the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) after they intimidated a solicitor by stalking him and pulling him over.
Strike Force Raptor threw Aboriginal man head first for filming officers
Officers from Raptor stopped a car that Brett Armstrong was a passenger in, and breath tested the driver. The pair were driving away from a vet, and Armstrong had four puppies with him.
Armstrong began to film police, when one Raptor officer told him to put the phone down.
The officer “became enraged, or at least very angry, that he had been disobeyed” and “without a question, without a word, he walked up to the plaintiff and commenced an assault”.
Armstrong’s lawyer said the officer punched him twice with a “powerful amount of force”, breaking his ribs. Then he was picked up and thrown to the ground in some sort of martial arts manoeuvre by the officer, an expert in jiu-jitsu.
Armstrong was thrown “more or less head-neck first”, not quite in a spear tackle, and slammed into the ground, his lawyer said. He said shadows visible on a police dash camera showed Mr Armstrong being elevated, then his leg twitching as he lay on the ground “as though he’s suffered an electric shock”.
Raptor assaulted five men and then lied about it
In another incident, two men had just purchased disposable face masks at a petrol station when police entered. The officers then arrested them for failing to wear masks.
The men questioned why they were under arrest. Officers from Strike Force Raptor wrestled the pair to the ground, calling for assistance.
Three other men approached officers to criticise them for the arrest, and were subsequently arrested by other officers.
Police charged all five with various offences including:
- assault police;
- harass police;
- hinder police; and
- resist arrest.
The police body-cam video showed a different version of events than pleaded by police, according to Magistrate Grogin.
Magistrate Grogin said it was “abundantly clear” there was a “major” discrepancy between the body-worn video and the officers’ claims.
“It would be obvious to anybody involved with the criminal law… the reason why these charges were withdrawn,” he said.
“To say that the video showed nothing but a very serious physical altercation between police and the defendants would be an understatement.”
On video footage, two Constables from Strike Force Raptor walk into the service station. One officer greets the men, saying “hey brother, how you going”.
“No mask, both you boys,” one officer continued. “You’re both under arrest … can you hop outside for us?”
The officer scolded one of the men for swearing in a public place. However, a short time later the same officer wrestles with the man on the ground, saying: “you f—ing move, I’ll knock you out c–t”.
Subsequently, the officer moved to where another man is under restraint nearby and kneed him multiple times. The officer then tells him: “don’t f—ing move c–t”.
Raptor officer booted into admin role
Over the past several years, the taskforce attracted a lot of negative attention for the way officers conduct themselves in interactions in public. This includes harassing and even assaulting people without sufficient cause to do so.
In 2018, an online petition called for an investigation into Officer Andrew Murphy. Otherwise known as Raptor 13, a series of videos uploaded to social media showed him brandishing a metal pole at a driver during a routine traffic stop, pushing a woman, and drawing a taser on, and then searching, a group of mourners on their way to motorcycle club boss Mick Hawi’s funeral.
In 2020, NSWPF confirmed Murphy moved to an admin role.
‘The officer has transferred from the Criminal Groups Squad to a non-public facing unit,’ she said.
That means he will essentially be doing administrative police work, and only working with his fellow officers.
There are widespread community concerns about the ‘military-style’ policing of the strike force, and the attitude that these officers have, believing that they are a law unto themselves.