Police have issued a court-ordered apology after two officers dressed up in Palestinian headscarves while playing the role of terrorists in a training exercise.
The simulated incident at Sydney's Central railway station in October 2017 involved hundreds of officers and emergency services staging an apparent Islamic State terror attack.
In the exercise, two armed attackers wearing chequered headscarves pretended to stab and shoot people and forced hostages to hold an Islamic State flag against a train window, before fleeing and being detained by police.
But the exercise, intended to test the police response, ended up in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) facing a racial vilification complaint.
Two tribunal members ruled earlier this year that the headscarves worn by the two officers — one black and white, and one black and green — could have incited hatred and contempt for Palestinians and other Arabic people.
The headscarves, known as keffiyeh, are worn in Arab cultures, with black and white chequered scarves in particular associated with Palestinian people.
The tribunal found the scarves were "not necessary" for the training exercise.
On Tuesday morning New South Wales police published an apology on social media channels.
The exact wording was as ordered by the tribunal.
"The NSW Police Force had no intention to vilify any racial group. However, the tribunal has confirmed that there does not need to be any intent for racial vilification to occur," the statement said.
"NSW Police Force apologises for the use of these headscarves in the exercise."
The tribunal also ordered NSW police to introduce a program educating senior officers and media unit staff about racial vilification.
The complaint was brought by Palestinian Australian man Sam Ekermawi, who said the use of keffiyeh was demeaning to Arabic, Muslim and Middle Eastern communities.
Ekermawi told the tribunal there were many different head coverings the officers could have worn that are not associated with those communities.
He said the police were "tarnishing the Palestinians' name" by releasing footage of the staged attack and had caused distress to the community.
Police argued at tribunal that the use of headscarves did not racially vilify any one group.
Chief inspector Colin Green told the tribunal the clothing was intended to be "non-specific" and that he agreed to facial coverings for the officers playing the terrorist roles because they did not want to be identified.
The scarves were similar to the keffiyeh by coincidence and were purchased from an army disposal store, Green told the tribunal.
"Terrorists do not have an ethnocultural identity," he said. "There was no intention to stereotype any members of the community. There was no focus on or consideration of Palestinian issues."
Green also said that the exercise simulated an Islamic State attack because NSW police perceived it was a group likely to be behind a future terror attack in Australia.