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Policing is mostly about people.  However the story of policing follows the course of technological change.  Police search for the best tools to maximise their effectiveness in the fight against crime and to protect the community.  This section focuses on the tools of the trade.  


Forensic Equipment

Forensic Science is the application of science to the legal system and it has become an essential tool in modern crime detection and prosecution.


Various equipment is required for the following area:

  • Crime Scene Examination

  • Photography 

  • Fingerprinting 

  • Chemistry  

  • DNA 

  • Ballistic and Tool Mark Examination

Other related fields

  • Computer and Digital Devices Forensics

  • Forensic Accounting

  • Accident Reconstruction 


Forensic Equipment

Investigation Equipment

  • Audio recording

  • Video recording




Fast and reliable communication is the backbone of effective police operations.    Police have followed broader trends and been early adopters in some areas of communications.


Information Technology

Information is vital to police efficiency.  Police must be able to collect, store, analyse, search, retrieve and disseminate information rapidly.  


The Nortern Territory Police began widespread computerisation at the end of the 1970's and have continued to upgrade systems as new technology becomes firmly established.   Some of the systems below are common to many organisations and some are specific to the NT Police or groups of law enforcement agencies.

information technology

Operational Safety

For a long time some form of baton has been the principal piece of operational safety equipment carried by a police officer.   Gradually new equipment has been added to the point where the load carriage is a significant issue.  This page explores the equipment officers carry to operate more safely.

Operational safety

Specialist Equipment


  • Bomb response

  • Public order (riot)

  • Marine equipment

Safety Vest

Water police became involved in the development and design of a coastal operations safety vest that combined marine safety equipment with police operational safety equipment.   The vest came into operation about 2003.

The vest contains:

  • Glock pistol

  • Knife (for cutting nets)

  • GPS

  • Flares

  • Cyalume sticks

  • Strobe

  • Personal EPIRB

  • Compass and maps

  • Camelbak water storage

  • Survival kit and emergency rations

specialist equipment

Road Safety Equipment


  • Speed detection

  • Drink driving detection

  • Accident investigation

Speed Detection

An effective means of detecting the speed of vehicles is essential to Traffic enforcement and a variety of technologies have been applied to this purpose over time.

Amphometer based speed detection

Amphometers use two air filled tubes to measure when a vehicle passes.   The vehicle squashes the tube causing a pressure rise which is measured by a sensor.   By placing them a set distance apart and measuring the time between strikes on the two tubes it is easy to determine the speed of travel from a table.  While Amphometers are still used to detect vehicle movement in a number of areas they were replaced by RADAR units in the NT for Traffic enforcement in the 1980s. 



Apart from the many other uses of RADAR it was the mainstay of police speed enforcement from the 1980's to the start of the 21st century.


Police Radar Guns on Wikipedia

RADAR was replaced by LASER speed detection equipment. 




Using light instead of sound provided greater accuracy and range.

Road safety equipment

Transport Equipment

Mobility is vital to police operations.  Mounted patrols took months to cover area that can now be covered in under a day. NT Police have used many different types of transport.

Transport equipment

Police Equipment Timeline


The first multi-shot pistol, introduced by Samuel Colt, goes into mass production. The weapon is adopted by the Texas Rangers and, thereafter, by police departments nationwide.


San Francisco is the site of one of the earliest uses of systematic photography for criminal identification.



On June 17, 1862, inventor W. V. Adams patented handcuffs that used adjustable ratchets - the first modern handcuffs.



The use of the telegraph by fire and police departments begins in Albany, New York in 1877.


The telephone comes into use in police precinct houses in Washington, D.C.



Chicago is the first U.S. city to adopt the Bertillon system of identification. Alphonse Bertillon, a French criminologist, applies techniques of human body measurement used in anthropological classification to the identification of criminals. His system remains in vogue in North America and Europe until it is replaced at the turn of the century by the fingerprint method of identification.



The first police car was used in Akron, Ohio. Police cars became the basis of police transportation in the 20th century



Scotland Yard adopts a fingerprint classification system devised by Sir Edward Richard Henry. Subsequent fingerprint classification systems are generally extensions of Henry's system.



Edmund Locard establishes the first police department crime laboratory in Lyon, France.



The Los Angeles Police Department establishes the first police department crime laboratory in the United States.

The use of the teletype is inaugurated by the Pennsylvania State Police.


Detroit police begin using the one-way radio.


Boston Police begin using the two-way radio.



American police begin the widespread use of the automobile.

The prototype of the present-day polygraph is developed for use in police stations.

The FBI inaugurates its crime laboratory which, over the years, comes to be world renowned.



Radar is introduced to traffic law enforcement.

The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) meets for the first time. 



The New Orleans Police Department installs an electronic data processing machine, possibly the first department in the country to do so. The machine is not a computer, but a vacuum-tube operated calculator with a punch-card sorter and collator. It summarizes arrests and warrants.



A former marine invents the side-handle baton, a baton with a handle attached at a 90-degree angle near the gripping end. Its versatility and effectiveness eventually make the side-handle baton standard issue in many U.S. police agencies.



The first computer-assisted dispatching system is installed in the St. Louis police department.

The National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, a message-switching facility linking all state police computers except Hawaii, comes into being.

The President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice concludes that the "police, with crime laboratories and radio networks, made early use of technology, but most police departments could have been equipped 30 or 40 years ago as well as they are today."

The FBI inaugurates the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), the first national law enforcement computing center. NCIC is a computerized national filing system on wanted persons and stolen vehicles, weapons, and other items of value. One observer notes NCIC was "the first contact most smaller departments had with computers."

AT&T announces it will establish a special number -- 911 -- for emergency calls to the police, fire and other emergency services. Within several years, 911 systems are in widespread use in large urban areas.

Beginning in the late 1960s, there are many attempts to develop riot control technologies and use-of-force alternatives to the police service revolver and baton. Tried and abandoned or not widely adopted are wooden, rubber and plastic bullets; dart guns adapted from the veterinarian's tranquilizer gun that inject a drug when fired; an electrified water jet; a baton that carries a 6,000-volt shock; chemicals that make streets extremely slippery; strobe lights that cause giddiness, fainting and nausea; and the stun gun that, when pressed to the body, delivers a 50,000-volt shock that disables its victim for several minutes. One of the few technologies to successfully emerge is the TASER which shoots two wire-controlled, tiny darts into its victim or the victim's clothes and delivers a 50,000-volt shock. By 1985, police in every state have used the TASER, but its popularity is restricted owing to its limited range and limitations in affecting the drug- and alcohol-intoxicated. Some agencies adopt bean bag rounds for crowd control purposes.



The large-scale computerization of U.S. police departments begins. Major computer-based applications in the 1970s include computer-assisted dispatch (CAD), management information systems, centralized call collection using three-digit phone numbers (911), and centralized integrated dispatching of police, fire, and medical services for large metropolitan areas.

The National Institute of Justice initiates a project that leads to the development of lightweight, flexible, and comfortable protective body armor for the police. The body armor is made from Kevlar, a fabric originally developed to replace steel belting for radial tires. The soft body armor introduced by the Institute is credited with saving the lives of more than 2,000 police officers since its inception into the law enforcement community.

The National Institute of Justice funds the Newton, Massachusetts, Police Department to assess the suitability of six models of night vision devices for law enforcement use. The study leads to the widespread use of night vision gear by today's police agencies.

Rockwell International installs the first fingerprint reader at the FBI. In 1979, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police implements the first actual automatic fingerprint identification system (AFIS).



Police departments begin implementing "enhanced" 911, which allows dispatchers to see on their computer screens the addresses and telephone numbers from which 911 emergency calls originated.



Pepper spray, widely used by the police as a force alternative, is first developed. Pepper spray is Oleoresin Capsicum (OC), which is synthesized from capsaicin, a colorless, crystalline, bitter compound present in hot peppers.



More than 90 percent of U.S. police departments serving a population of 50,000 or more are using computers. Many are using them for such relatively sophisticated applications as criminal investigations, budgeting, dispatch, and manpower allocation.


Departments in New York, Chicago, and elsewhere increasingly use sophisticated computer programs to map and analyze crime patterns.


The National Academy of Sciences announces that there is no longer any reason to question the reliability of DNA evidence.

equipment timeline

Communications Timeline


Scotland Yard introduces 999 call system


Darwin Coast Radion, VID, established


OTC (A) takes over Coast Radio Network


VID transferred to Parap


UK Police advances in radio dispatch of units


VID damaged during Cyclone Tracy


VJY Outback Radio Service established by VID


OTC (A) merged with Telecom and becomes Telstra


Morse Telegraphy Service suspended on 31 January


VJY Suspends manned operations


AMSA builds High Frequency (HF) and Satellite Digital Select Calling (DSC) facilities at WIluna (WA) and Charleville (QLD)


HF Radphone and Radphone Direct Dial services closed on 28 February


VID Darwin Coast Radio officially closed on 30 June


VHF Seaphone Service closed on 1 December after over 30 years of operation



Communications Timeline

Vessel List


NTES harbour vessel - 6.5m, commissioned 17/5/2005 and based in Darwin. Badged over to police in 2012.


7.4m Ocean Cylinder commissioned 15/9/2004 and based in Pirlingimpi.

Beagle Gulf - Steber 47 commissioned 17/5/2005 as the principal vessel of the MFES.

Bill Stavers

The Police Vessel Bill Stavers is an ex Barramundi Fishing tender that was forfeited to the crown after a fisheries prosecution and gifted to the NT Police Underwater Recovery Unit (PURU) or Dive Unit by the Director of Fisheries.   The vessel, like the dive unit currently sits with the TRG


The dive boat is shallow draft and constructed of 6mm thick plate aluminium and is also used for shallow water patrols or search and rescue, flood rescue and other flood related counter disaster operations. 

Borroloola I

5.4m aluminium centre console based at Borroloola.



Police Launch - Caravelle model manufactured by Pride. 

During Cyclone Tracy the 21 ft Pride Caravelle Police Launch was destroyed.  Primo Bonato recounts how it was found around a week later damaged beyond repair in mangroves in Darwin harbour.  Peter Hammond was one of the first members to skipper this vessel.

Charles Kingston

Darwin I

5.6m aluminium centre console based at Wadeye. (no longer in service)


Darwin River


Emma Lambrick

9.98m twin hull powercat.


ET Harrison

18 foot aluminium tri-hull cuddy cab (hydrofield design built in 1984 by Tri-Star Marine, later All Star Marine)



The Police Vessel Finniss is a 9.7m Ocean Master Cylinder commissioned on 7/1/2004 and stationed at Groote Eylandt.


The vessel is named after the Finniss river.


Foelsche II

7.3m Ocean Cylinder commissioned on 10/8/2001 and based in Groote Eylandt and Nhulunbuy (no longer in service)



7.3m Ocean Cylinder commissioned on 10/8/2001 and based at Maningrida.


M J Waters

7.4m Ocean Cylinder commissioned on 1/10/2006 and based at Wadeye. (no longer in service)



The Norlaw was a 30' Striker built in Brisbane in 1974 that had been owned by the NT Fisheries and was provided to police when they took on the responsibility for Fisheries Enforcement in 1981 primarily as a Search and Rescue (SAR) vessel.


It was powered by a V8 Caterpillar diesel engine. In the 1980's the Norlaw was averaging 60-70 searches per year. Peter Hamon was one of the early crew members.



Pobassoo Island in the Northern Territory is named after the master of a Macassan fleet of prahus that harvested trepang in the NT. He was encountered by Matthew Flinders in 1803 on north east tip of the Arnhem Land coast.  


Ocean Cylinder commissioned in 2004-2005 and based at Borroloola.


Roper I

5.3m centre console based at Ngukurr.



The Salloo was built in the mid 1970's* for the Queensland as a Fisheries Patrol Vessel to USL codes by Randall. It was cruiser of GRP (glass reinforced plastic) contstruction with a length of 18.81m, beam of 3.66m and draft of 1.4m. It is powered by 2 Detroit Diesel 8V 92 V6 turbocharged engines with GM gearboxes. 
The Salloo was the major Search and Rescue platform for the NT Police, Marine and Fisheries Enforcement Section

The Salloo was put up for sale in 1997 and has since been purchased. In 2012 the Salloo was moored in Pt. Albert, Victoria and is privately owned and is being refurbished by the new owners. We look forward to images of her in her new life.




Tactical RHIB

The Tactical RHIB is an 8.5 metre Gemini Waverider designed to provide an on water boarding capability as part of the National Counter Terrrorism Plan.  It is a high speed, high performance craft with no creature comforts.   It is also able to be used as a fast response vessel for Search and Rescue missions and an interceptor.


Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) - wikipedia

Gemini Waverider series - company website



NSW Water Police Video featuring the Gemini WaveRider Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat (RHIB) used by each jurisdiction as part of their counter terrorism capability.



The NT Police were gifted over 10 Zodiac 470 Hulls and motors that were surplus to requirement for the Australian Army.  They had been in use by the SAS, Regional Force Surveillance Units and Engineers amongst others for a variety of purposes and became obsolete when a new hull was introduced.


The hulls were kept by police due to their ability to be portable by air or within a standard vehicle and their low profile on the water.



Unnamed Vessels
  • 5m RHIB

  • (RHIB) Gemini Waverider Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat

  • Dinghys

  • Scorpion (Tank)

  • Taipan (Tank)



Other agencies and vessels working with water police
  • Transport and Works Marine Branch vessel Gunyana.

  • Australian Volunteer Coast Guard (Darwin) vessel Arafura Guardian (decommissioned) and Keppel Sands.

  • Surf Life Saving Society (Darwin) vessel Westpac Rescue 1

  • Customs vessels

    • CRV MacArthur River2 based in Nhulunbuy

    • Roper River based in Darwin

  • Ranger Vessels (National)

    • Kakadu

      • Swampdog

      • Swampdog II

  • Ranger Vessels (Territory)

  • Fisheries Vessels

  • Australian Defence Force Vessel (in the NT)

    • Patrol Boats

    • Norforce

Vessel list
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