2 August 2022

VALS is extremely concerned that the Victorian Government continues to push through legislation expanding the powers of police. The Government’s Justice Legislation Amendment (Police and Other Matters) Bill would let police order someone to leave the vicinity of a police station if they are ‘antagonistic’, even if they are not breaking any law. Refusing to follow this order would be a criminal offence – effectively criminalising being rude to a police officer.

Police already have extensive powers to deal with people who may pose a threat, including move-on orders and breach of the peace orders. Those powers are used disproportionately against Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people. These new powers will be enforced in the same discriminatory way. This will bring more people into contact with the criminal legal system to face potentially crippling financial penalties.

The Bill also expands police powers in other ways. It would give new powers to Protective Services Officers, who have significantly less training than police officers. Recent events have shown that Victoria Police needs more oversight. Hundreds of police officers were not correctly sworn in because Victoria Police didn’t understand its own governing legislation. IBAC has also reported on Victoria Police’s chronic failure to properly investigate misconduct complaints made by Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people.

Instead of addressing the deep-seated problems within Victoria Police, the Victorian Government continues giving them more money, weapons, staff, and power. The Government should be focusing on what actually needs to be done – the long overdue overhaul of police oversight. VALS has provided the roadmap on how to achieve this.

Quotes Attributable to Nerita Waight, CEO of VALS

Under these laws, someone standing outside a police station being rude to an officer could be fined over $900 if they don’t. This is over the top and unnecessary.

Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people are more likely to have negative interactions with police, because of the police force’s history of racism, and ongoing systemic racism. Our community will inevitably bear the brunt of these new proposals.

The Victorian Government needs to stop giving Victoria Police everything they ask for and start addressing the many scandals and cultural problems within the Victoria Police.”