Police issue stern warning about citizen arrest powers

Police issue stern warning about citizen arrest powers

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Canning Vale Senior Sergeant Quentin Flatman at a local crime police forum last month. Photograph — Richard Polden.

Canning Vale Senior Sergeant Quentin Flatman said the Western Australia Police Force couldn’t exist or operate with any degree of success without the assistance from the community.

However, it is important to understand the limitations that could be involved when assisting the police.

On August 28, Kensington Police spotted a wanted man with an arrest warrant and members from the ‘high vis’ brigade assisted the police in cutting him off when a foot pursuit ensued.

Even though in this case the community wanted to assist police by getting involved in the pursuit The Examiner contacted the Cannington Vale Senior Sergeant Quentin Flatman to find out when the community should and shouldn’t get involved.

Sergeant Flatman said the community should assist police with target hardening which involves making homes more secure to reduce being a victim of burglary or removing valuables from vehicles.

Also said reporting suspicious behaviour is an essential tool for police investigations.

“In situations where it is safe to do so, individuals can assist by capturing mobile telephone footage of crimes or being present and ‘calling’ out to offenders as a means to deter or disrupt a criminal offence from occurring,” he said.

“I stress that this should only be done when the individual is not at risk of personal harm.”

The Criminal Investigations Act 2006 empowers members of the public to lawfully detain someone provided certain; very specific circumstances are met (colloquially referred as a Citizen’s Arrest).

This includes a member of the public reasonably suspecting that a person has committed or is committing an arrestable offence.

“These powers should be exercised with caution, if all the required circumstances are not met the member of the public could find themselves liable to prosecution of a serious offence,” he said.

“We accept that people sometimes make decisions on the spur of the moment and sometimes the decision to pursue or apprehend a suspect may be the right decision, dependent on the circumstances and their own physical capabilities.

“However, we ask the public to always consider their personal safety above all else.

“Importantly, if people feel their personal safety is at imminent risk they should always phone triple zero.”