Operational Response Group (ORG)

Operational Response Group (ORG)


As part of the expansion of the AFP’s International Deployment Group (IDG), the Operational Response Group (ORG) was created to increase the IDG’s technical capacities, including specialist training for activities like riot control.

The AFP maintains an operational tactical response team (ORT) overseas in Solomon Islands but the creation of the ORG upgrades the capacity for rapid overseas deployment for activities such as riot control. In 2007, the AFP announced that it was purchasing armoured cars for use in overseas deployments and the basing of an ORG unit in Brisbane for rapid deployment to the islands region.

Government sources

Operations Response Team, Australian Federal Police Annual Report, 2005-06, pp68-69

“In January 2005, the AFP Operations Response Team was formed to meet the new and emerging needs for tactical policing capability, and to respond dynamically to these demands in support of the IDG and AFP. The Operations Response Team consists of 29 tactical operators, who bring a wide range of knowledge and experience to the lDG from other parts of the AFP and from state and territory police services. The Operations Response Team activities are managed by an operationally experienced coordination group, with support from an armourer, project officer and a logistician. 

“As the provider of tactical policing services to lDG, the Operations Response Team deployed the first full tactical team into RAMSI on 7 July 2005. Since then, two more teams have been formed, making three teams available for operational deployment on a rotational basis. 

“The Operations Response Team tactical policing services include high-risk entry. high-risk vehicle intercepts, air and waterborne operations, counter-assault tasks, high- risk escort operations, remote rural-patrolling operations, crocodile control, proactive patrolling, remote and covert surveillance, prison-riot response and major civil-disorder interventions.” 

 Operational Response Group (ORG), AFP website

“The AFP Operational Response Group (ORG) provides tactical policing capabilities and a high readiness response to incidents of civil disorder. The primary focus of this group is international offshore operations. It falls under the function of the AFP International Deployment Group (IDG).

“The ORG supports AFP operations through the provision of Tactical Response Teams replacing the previous AFP Operational Response Team (ORT), and the development of Stability Response Teams (SRT). The ORG also has technical and specialist capability to provide support to operations.

“The Stability Response Teams (SRT) provides high readiness response to incidents of international civil disorder and riots. These teams undertake advanced training in specialist weaponry and less lethal capabilities. They may also undertake additional functions such as negotiations, communications and marine operations. These members provide the front line rapid response for containment and restoration of civil disorder.

“The ORG is made up of approximately 200 members and consists of three Operations Response Units (ORU). Each ORU has approximately 40 operational members. Two of these units are SRT and one is TRT. These members are based in both Canberra (Headquarters) and Brisbane (forward position).”

Forging closer ties to the United Nations, Australian Federal Police Platypus magazine No.100, October 2008.

“Like the UN, the AFP has recognised the vacuum between military intervention and policing, but unlike the UN – which has recruited paramilitary-style, self-sustainable police units to perform the primary role of security, crowd control and disorder maintenance – the lDG has developed a more comprehensive and flexible capability in the form of the Operational Response Group (ORG). The need for a dedicated, deployable, tactical policing capability which could effectively police unstable environments was identified in 2006. The ORG was formed as a high-readiness crisis response to international peacekeeping missions and debuted soon after as part of the Australian Government’s response to the assassination attempts on Timor-Leste’s President and Prime Minister in February 2008. The unique skills and flexibility of the ORG, plus the strategic placement of tactical resources in Canberra and Brisbane allows the AFP to tailor a response to suit each mission. In the event of a major incident, whether locally-based or within the wider Asia-Pacific region, the ORG can deploy up to 200 highly trained members in a matter of hours.”

Speech to National Security Australia Conference, Minister for Home Affairs Bob Debus, Sydney, Thursday 6 March 2008

Our 1200 personnel in the International Deployment Group by June this year [2008] will include a 200 strong Operational Resources Group to respond quickly to new international situations, and stabilisation operations that require tactical responses.”

Testimony to Senate Committee, AFP Assistant Commissioner Mark Walters and Commander Steve Lancaster (Manager, AFP Operational Response Group), Senate Joint Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade Committee, 25 July 2007, p20

Senator Mark Bishop – With regard to the IDG, will you be developing SWAT type groups internally for use overseas or is that not part of your mandate?

Assistant Commissioner Mark Walters – The Operational Response Group (ORG) would provide that tactical capability.

ORG Commander Lancaster – In simple terms, it is 200 but the operational arm is 150, in broad numbers. You effectively have one group of about 50 tactical operators. These are the traditional SWAT members who are trained up to that level. The other 100-in broad numbers, again- comprise that riot response who are trained up to a certain level to deal with mass demonstrations and, again, less lethal capability.

Assistant Commissioner Mark Walters – Prior to the IDG future strategy we created what we called an Operational Response Team, the forerunner to the ORG, which was three teams of 10 to provide capability into RAMSI. They spent a period of time in RAMSI. One team would be in RAMSI, one would be on stand-down and one would be on training, so we would have three teams rotating through. As you would appreciate, training is an integral part of sustaining our competency within that highly specialised area. We had RAMSI. We then had Timor and then Tonga all requiring that capability, so our capability was extremely stretched through three missions when it had been designed around providing support for one mission hence providing a greater capability in this particular area. Timor again highlighted some of the grey area we needed to cover off between the Defence Force and policing.

ORG Commander Lancaster – That is probably the other 50 we had, which are the other support areas. These are lessons learnt from Timor – maritime, marksmen, having the right people and having dogs. General purpose dogs work very effectively. The ADF had four dogs over there and they were extremely good in public order situations. We will have that support service available to us to take offshore next time–and an aviation ground surveillance capability as well.

ORG Stability Response Team, AFP website

“ORG SRT provides an immediate response to incidents of civil disorder, crowd control and riot situations in support of AFP international operations. This requires SRT members to be at a high state of readiness to respond to offshore incidents. This group is one of the first responders that the AFP deploys in assistance of regional instability. The SRT is required to perform high end riot control and advance into areas that are experiencing civil disorder. The SRT supports off-shore operations and works closely alongside ORG TRT members. SRT members are trained in additional weapons skills and undertake additional responsibilities to support ORG operations such as communications, negotiations and maritime functions. SRT members are required to maintain a high state of physical fitness and undertake regular training to maintain the necessary skills to perform this role. Members may be deployed to hostile crowds and experience physical and verbal abuse.”

ORG Tactical Response Teams, AFP website

The ORG provides an immediate high level response to support AFP international operations. TRT members are trained in a wide variety of skills and undertake a variety of duties including:

    • effect high risk searches, search warrants and arrests
    • support to public order policing
    • remote rural patrols
    • protection of people in high risk situations, and 
    • support to the security of members deployed to mission.

Operational Response Group Recruitment, frequently asked questions, AFP website

Commentary and analysis

AFP to raise armoured unit, Cameron Stewart, The Australian, 7 November 2007

“The Australian Federal Police plans to have its own fleet of armoured vehicles to send to hotspots around the globe by late next year. But the AFP denies the move will transform it into a paramilitary force, saying the new so-called “protected armoured response vehicles” will not be mounted with guns or other weapons. Instead the armoured fleet will be used to protect AFP officers from attacks while deployed on peacekeeping missions in areas of civil unrest such as the Solomon Islands and East Timor….

“[AFP spokesman says] ‘The fatal shooting of Officer Adam Dunning whilst on mobile patrol in the Solomon Islands and the injuries sustained by AFP officers during the Honiara riots demonstrate the inherent dangers involved in peacekeeping operations and capacity building.’

The AFP’s armoured vehicles will be used only for overseas operations and will not be used in Australia. The move follows the $500million plan announced last year by AFP commissioner Mick Keelty to double the AFP’s international force to about 1200 officers. The most likely destination for the armoured vehicles is the Solomon Islands, where 213 AFP officers are deployed to help keep civil order…. The armoured vehicles are likely to be used by the AFP’s new overseas anti-riot squad.”

Brisbane – Australia’s ‘counter-terror hub’, Michael Wray, Courier Mail (Brisbane), 21 January 2008

“Brisbane will be Australia’s counter terrorism policing hub with squads of elite federal police to be based in the city for emergencies at home and in the Pacific region. But with Queensland police numbers already stretched, there are concerns experienced local officers will move to the Australian Federal Police and leave a skills vacuum in specialist services.

“The AFP confirmed yesterday that a crack Operational Response Group unit had been set up in Brisbane but refused to say how many officers it had or what they did.  But The Courier-Mail understands the 150 ORG officers will be split into three units of 50, with two units in Brisbane and one in Canberra. It is believed a combination of Brisbane’s proximity to the Pacific region, its international airport and the Enoggera army base made it an attractive host for the ORG units.

“But the new positions have the potential to affect the Queensland Police Service, which has already indicated to the AFP it will not be able to continue its deployments to Timor and the Solomon Islands after June…..The officers who switch to the ORG could earn as much as $40,000 more in base salary and tens of thousands more should they be sent overseas. Queensland Police Union general secretary Phil Hocken said the drain of senior police to the AFP was a major problem.”

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