Colleagues are rallying around two police officers involved in the arrest of a man who died after being handcuffed in the car park of a Bulli unit block.
It is understood the 34-year-old Wollongong man lashed out when police tried to apprehend him.
Two officers had to lie on top of him to control him, sources said.
When he stopped fighting back, they realised ‘‘something was horribly wrong’’, one source said.
‘‘The police involved are really shaken up – this has been really horrible for them.’’
Another source said the officers had the full support of their colleagues.
‘‘When someone is lashing out, kicking and punching, you have to hold the person down to try to calm them, until they tire,’’ he said.
‘‘They did what any officer does in that situation. I’m sure if they had their time over again they would do the same again. In the heat of a dangerous situation you have to make a split-second decision and they did what any officer would do,’’ the source said.
It was now ‘‘a waiting game’’ until the critical incident investigation was complete.
‘‘They will have to go through a lengthy process now.
‘‘The next step is finding out what the actual cause of death was. Until the investigators know how this person died – it could be from any number of causes – they can’t put the pieces of the puzzle together.
‘‘But I know they have the 100per cent support of everyone,’’ the source said.
NSW Police Association president Scott Weber said yesterday that the union would stand behind the officers throughout an investigation. But they could not ‘‘make direct comment’’ while the incident was still under investigation.
‘‘For police involved in any critical incident, it can be a stressful and traumatic experience. We will provide support to the officers involved throughout the investigation process,’’ Mr Weber said.
The very nature of police work meant officers had to react fast, particularly in times of tension.
‘‘Police officers are often called out to difficult and life-threatening situations and are forced to make split-second decisions in demanding environments.
‘‘At all times they rely on their training and they do their best in stressful situations to protect the community and themselves,’’ he said.