Three fugitives on the run after escaping police custody weren't in handcuffs when they made their break, police have admitted.
The Levin trio got away on Wednesday night after overpowering the two officers assigned to put them in a transport vehicle. There were four, but one was successfully detained.
"Mistakes happen," Deputy Police Commissioner John Tims told The AM Show on Friday. "Not happy about it, but I guess if you think about it, mistakes do happen. We don't want that to happen."
Police on Thursday couldn't say if the trio were handcuffed. Tims said they weren't, and admitted officers "misread" the situation.
"One offender grabbed one police officer, the other three pushed past the other, pushed the exit button and left. If they had been handcuffed, it would have been a different story.
"It's really easy to sit here and be judgy, but I think if handcuffs had been used then this wouldn't have occurred."
He said it's hard to judge what "motivated and unpredictable" people in custody might do.
"Every situation we've got to make a risk assessment... I would like to think two police officers could manage four offenders in a secure yard. The important thing is we own the mistake. We'll review it, we'll learn from it.
"What's more important is we actually find these three offenders. I wouldn't be approaching them if I was a member of the community."
Police previously said they weren't a danger.
"We are actively hunting for them," said Tims. "Come forward, hand yourself in, because we are actively hunting."
Tims wasn't sure if there were rules around officer-suspect ratios and use of handcuffs in transporting prisoners.
The mistake came a week after two guns were stolen from a police vehicle during a chase in Gore. The suspect was arrested two days later, but one of the guns is still missing.
"Our police staff did a really good job actually - they found someone acting suspicious, they had a police car rammed, they tried to apprehend the offender," Tims insisted. "Yes, he got away with a police car, and inside the police car were two Glocks."
He said the public and media are right to question police tactics in cases like these.
"We want you to challenge us, because we want to be the best we can. I don't take this as a criticism - this is challenging us to be better, and we want to be better."