Public perceptions about safety and the fear of terrorism are behind the push for tough new police powers in NSW, Police Commissioner Mick Fuller has said.
Speaking at a NSW Law Society forum, Commissioner Fuller said it was the public's belief they were unsafe that was driving legislative change, rather than an agenda by police.
Nevertheless, police do welcome the state's new anti-terrorism laws, Commissioner Fuller said, which include the "lethal force" powers.
"The fear of crime drives a lot of public policy, rather than the reality of crime," he said.
"I think if the community started the conversation about how safe they are, and we spoke more about how safe we are, then there would be less pressures perhaps on stronger, harsher legislation."
Commissioner Fuller said people need to start appreciating that they are safer than ever before.
"Why the doom and gloom — why are people so scared? What are we scared of?"
"I think if we could overcome that and say 'crime's down, it's the lowest it's been in 40 years and I feel safe' perhaps police don't need new powers."
The Commissioner did say however that the terrorism powers, which allow police to pre-emptively target terrorists with intentional kill shots, are needed to keep up with the realities of modern crime.
"When you talk about modern policing around organised crime and terrorism — they are new types of crimes," he said.
"It is very difficult to police new crimes with old laws … new types of crimes will often require new legislation for us to address it effectively."
'Maximum power with minimal accountability'
However, Commissioner Fuller was sharply criticised by the NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks, who told the forum the recent bolstering of anti-terrorism powers appeared to be the result of lobbying by the police force.
"NSW has engaged in a law-and-order auction where the tougher the law, the better," he said.
"The way in which these laws have been enacted look as though they've been pushed by a police agenda trying to get maximum power with minimal accountability."
The new "lethal force" powers passed State Parliament less than a month after they were announced by Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
But Commissioner Fuller defended the process, telling the forum the new laws had the same parliamentary oversight as other new legislation.
"Legislation may get rushed through but it still has to go through both sides of Parliament, there's a whole process that needs to occur," he said.
"Yes, sometimes police want new legislation for issues but our voice at the table is no greater than anyone else."
The NSW coroner recommended police be given greater legal protection to shoot terrorist suspects dead when he handed down his findings into the Lindt Cafe siege earlier this year.
Source: ABC News