Monday, April 11, 2011

A call to remain armless.

It's well established (or well reported, in any case) that Melbourne has a violent crime problem on the streets, or, at the very least, there is a greater awareness of that violence - particularly stabbings and alcohol related violence. Crime stats were at a 10 year high in the 2009/10 period.

The targeting of Indian students on public transport resulted in protests calling for greater police presence, and particularly a multicultural police unit. The greater awareness of stabbing crime has resulted in designated search areas in the city, and major advertising campaigns have been run to tackle both people carrying knives (one of these "Knives Scar Lives" posters is very cleverly up in the toilets at the boxing gym I go to) and to encourage people to avoid drunken confrontation.

So, it's understandable that a new government would respond to these calls, even where it's a case of stacking solution upon solution upon solution (before reviewing the 2010/11 crime stats), by siezing the chance to cement itself as tough on crime and increasing security on one of the key places identified by the public as "dangerous" after hours.

My question is - why move protective services officers (PSOs) onto the trains (something they have never previously been equipped to do)? Why would you not take the money you're using to fund the 940 new PSOs and funnel it into Victoria Police?

Given that it's only very recently been the case that Victorian Police Officers have been approved to carry semi-automatic weapons (they are still not fully deployed, and are not expected to be so until 2012), after much gnashing of teeth, and understandable resistance from Christine Nixon as the Police Association drove the change, it's understandable that the Police Association is none too happy about this announcement. After all, when you've had to fight tooth and nail to be eligible to carry the weapons yourself, as fully qualified police officers, it would be rather insulting to hear the the new transport police will be carrying them from the get go. And you'd also be right to be pissed about the suggestion of a second-tier police force taking funding that by all rights should be yours.

While there is a clear difference between Authorised Officers and PSOs, you can't deny that people's experience of Authorised Officers will inform their response to the PSOs on trains - both anecdotally and according to complaints statistics, many people have found Authorise Officers to be intentionally intimidating and to use undue force to detain fair evaders.

Will PSOs just be stationed to keep trains safe from violent crimes? Or will they also be transport police, expected to stop fare evaders? And given that people already see Authorised Officers as using undue force, one has to question what reaction people will have to the Baillieu government equipping PSOs with semi-automatic weapons. And that's not even addressing the actual (legitimate) safety concerns of these weapons being deployed, just the perception.

PSOs are state-government rent-a-cops. They are trained for eight weeks. They are not police. They are being given arrest capability and automatic weapons and will be patrolling amongst the public.

So, Mr Baillieu, I'm not suggesting you send your best qualified police officers onto trains, but if you want to "get serious on crime", you hire police.

Put the money into the police force, increase presence on the streets of Melbourne and rotate a roster of your newest police onto the trains at night (those police you can now afford because you're not paying for 940 people who couldn't make the cut as actual officers). This will cut crime. Putting loaded semi-automatic weapons into the hands of lightly trained mock-police and throwing them on the trains at night is likely to only create it.

And a crisis for a new government.


  1. You have no idea what your talking about. PSO are police officers, bowser their training is shorter due to the different role undertaken which is providing a high level of expert security and protection. No booze buses, no investigations etc, hence why the training is shorter. The Psos hav the same firearms and defensive training as well as dealing with the public. To top it off, Psos are a division of the Victoria Police force so all that money is invested in the right place. Get your facts right and maybe do some thorough research. Maybe go speak to some psos at parliament or the law courts. You are just like every other labor wanker out there who only scrutinize.

  2. "You are just like every other labor wanker out there who only scrutinize." Well, on that note, your grammar is appalling.

    With regard to your actual argument:

    Tell me why the Police Association were unhappy about the announcement, and rightly called for the funding to be directed into actual Police Officers?

    PSOs are not Police Officers - if they were, they would have the same training. They have less training, less responsibility (they cannot arrest people off public transport, or when off-duty, like actual police officers can) , and yet are are armed with semi-automatic weapons that the government was unwilling to give our fully qualified run-of-the-mill Police force for many years (understandably).

    Current PSOs in law courts and parliament are not armed with semi-automatic firearms, but apparently their transport colleagues need them?

    There's no need to have transit police carrying these weapons, it's "tough on crime" theatrics.

  3. You can thank the Iphone for grammar mistakes.

    I beg to differ.
    Current Pso's are armed with new SAP 40., but not all of them. Only the ones who have completed their sap training. If the Officers are going to be confronted by scum they will use whatever tools necessary.

    The firearm is always the last resort and it is against Vic Pol policy to carry any part of the OSTT equipment wihout the lot. ie: Baton and no spray, etc.

    Pso's also have a duty of care when off duty, so yes they can arrest someone off duty.

    Yes they have less training and less responsibility, but they are trained extremely well to the job that they were founded for. They are not trained to run investigations, road safety etc. This is why their training is shorter, but it does NOT mean that their training is inadequate.

    Its very displeasing to call them rent a cops, armed guards, security guards. They are Victoria Police Protective Services Officers.

    I understand why TPass were unhappy. It would be much easier to put on more transit Police rather than Psos, however it does not mean that Psos are incapable of doing the job and doing a damn fine job of it.

    Pso's are a form of Police Officers, not cops but Psos.

  4. If you can provide links, that would be great.

    At the time I wrote this, the scheme was embryonic, so some of the initial assertions were based on the details given by both the Baillieu government and the Police Association at the time.

    I don't believe that it's a good solution, and I don't believe that you should have second-tier police officers doing police work on the trains. Perhaps I'm too hard on those who might eventually be in the role, but the point is the solution is a bad one.

    The suggestion that you're being "confronted with scum" doesn't mean you need to arm people with semi-automatic pistols. If anything there's more call for that in parliament or law courts, given the threat you're more likely to be dealing with.

    Thanks for commenting, though. And for your reply.
    The arms are theatrics. You might think that will result in people respecting their authority more - I disagree, and I think it has the potential for serious problems.


    Psos not mentioned, but I have seen them with the new semi autos. Have a look next time your about. Not all of them but a few. The transition process takes a while to be able to go do the training for them. Cheers. :)

  6. You're right, it doesn't really go into how this will affect PSOs, and does actually pre-date the PSO announcement, but I'll take your word for it.

    However, re: arrest powers off-duty (and out of their 'designated place' as specified by the bill) '"These people have very similar powers to Victoria Police members, although those powers will be restricted to the railway stations and when they’re actually working," Mr Lay said.' (

    Speaking of the bill, it has changed the role of PSOs quite markedly, and delineated different PSOs quite significantly. Despite the claims it's not to create a second tier police force, the bill's changes very much suggest this is the case with regard to the transport variety (including the ability to arrest for new offences, unlike officers stationed at the courts or parliament)...

    'The new officers will be able to remove anyone suspected of loitering, anyone deemed to be a safety risk and anyone suspected of damaging property.

    Searches will be conducted on anyone suspected of carrying a weapon, a ''volatile substance'' that can be inhaled or spray-cans and felt pens for graffiti.

    Cars and packages can also be searched under the plan, though the exact area where the officers' power will apply is yet to be finalised.'

    All the while... 'Police Minister Peter Ryan admitted it would be up to the courts to decide where the power of a PSO begins and ends "That will be an issue for a court’s interpretation,” Mr Ryan said.' Slightly worrying.

    It's all very policy on the run - the initial plan was to keep only 8 weeks training for the PSOs, something which changed after criticism from Overland. And the amount of training is STILL not clear for the new PSOs - the Vic Police website currently lists the training period as 8 weeks, despite reports suggesting otherwise (

  7. Yep I'm aware of all that. Just on a note, the training has been increased to twelve weeks. The extra 4 weeks will allow them to learn about the new powers as well as learn the transport act.