Australian SWAT Members Quit To Go Work In Iraq
THE crack police Tactical Response Group has been hit by the sudden resignation of officers to work in Iraq.
The officers were recruited on lucrative security contracts in the war-torn country.
The losses have made a severe dent in the highly trained unit of about 40 officers.
Three resigned last Friday, another five are about to hand in their papers, and it is understood others are discussing their options with senior officers.
Officers from the state protection unit are also said to be considering 12-month contracts worth up to $300,000.
It is also understood that several soldiers from the Perth-based Special Air Service regiment have left or are set to resign to take up similar deals.
The officers will be involved in the dangerous work of protecting business premises as Iraq struggles to rebuild its economy.
They will also act as bodyguards for wealthy businessmen.
Most of the recruiting has been carried out "word-of-mouth" among the tight-knit security world but a UK-based agency, working for a US consortium, is behind the campaign.
A Police Service spokesman refused to confirm the number of resignations but claimed it would not affect the TRG's operational ability.
"We have a reserve list of officers that can step in," he said.
"This sort of thing happens. People move on from these areas. They only have a certain life span and there is a natural turnover."
His main concern was not that the officers were leaving.
"I am concerned about their safety in the job they're going into," he said.
He said that the WA service specialist units were not the only specialist officers that had been targeted.
Similar units in other states had also been hit by resignations. "Anyone who is in these areas is being approached," he said.
"They are all likely candidates."
But Police Union president Mike Dean said the development had the potential to reduce the TRG's capability.
"While they are bringing in reserves, the officers who are leaving are extremely skilled, with unique training," he said.
"It disturbs me that the police service is not actively negotiating to keep these people on board.
"I think it goes beyond money with some of them. There is a history of lack of recognition and respect in some of these areas.
"It is an early warning or wake-up call for the Police Service and I suggest they sit up and take notice of it."
A Defence spokesman said he could not comment on the resignations.
"There is no obligation on their part to tell us what they are doing after leaving," he said.
"Even if they did we could not release details because of privacy and security obligations."