It states in the Victoria Police Manual of 2019 that the purpose of the police is to “provide a safe, secure and orderly society by serving the community and the Law”.
During the recent freedom demonstrations, we have witnessed Victoria Police disregard this purpose by violently imposing the Premier and Chief Health Officer’s extralegal Emergency Health Orders at the end of a baton. We have witnessed Victoria Police purposefully endangering the safety, security and orderliness of the community they are instituted to protect, and using violence and combative tactics against what would otherwise be peaceful and orderly demonstrations.
We have witnessed Victoria Police charging crowds with batons, shields, guns and horses. We have witnessed the police goading demonstrators before firing into crowds of men, women and children. We have witnessed elderly women being beaten to the ground and pepper sprayed as they lay prostrate and injured. We have witnessed small children being pepper-sprayed by tattooed, black-clad police officers. We have witnessed crowds pursued and attacked by police shouting abuse as they bash and pepper-spray those left behind.
Above all, in their militarised response to the freedom demonstrations, we have witnessed Victoria Police acting in defiance of their Oath of Office, which orders them to “discharge all [their] duties, faithfully, according to Law,” and begin acting instead as the paramilitary wing of the Premier and Chief Health Officer, under an extralegal regime of perennially extended emergency powers. It should be clear to those who made that pledge that they are no longer enforcing such outdated notions as the Queen’s Peace and the Law of the Land, but arbitrary extralegal health orders that are being used to violently crush demonstrations and silence dissent.
The Victoria Police has a long and proud history. The insignia on their badges, to “Uphold the Right”, has hitherto been respected by most Victorians. Yet ever since they donned their new black shirts, baseball caps, high-vis Kevlar jackets and heavy weaponry and began enforcing the often absurd and repressive Public Health Orders against the public, they have been drifting away from their role as Sir Robert Peel’s ‘citizens in uniform’ and are losing the public faith and goodwill that their role in society depends upon.
This waning trust is being compounded further by the messaging that the Victoria Police are disseminating to the media. ‘VicPol Commander’ Mark Galliott was widely reported after yesterday’s protest as saying that the demonstrators consisted of “500-700” “angry young males”, and that they were “not there to protest freedom [sic], they were simply [there] to take on and have a fight with the police.”
This is one lie among many.
It is a principle of Sir Robert Peel’s Principles of Policing “to recognize always that the power of the police to fulfill their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.”
In using their extraordinary powers to shut down the city, assault and harass members of the public and create an environment of overwhelming violence, fear and hostility to enforce the orders of Premier Daniel Andrews and Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton, the Victoria Police have undermined their role and the trust of the Victorian Public. They should let the demonstrations proceed peacefully rather than kettling, attacking and chasing demonstrators in the name of ‘social distancing’.
In the words of Sir Robert Peel, “the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them”.
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