Watching the Courts' Next Move



On a typical Sunday evening this February, the sad reality of our job was played out in graphic and frightening detail on the evening news. It reinforced what many of us know, but those outside the job can only appreciate when a camera is there to capture a slice of our reality. 

Put simply, policing is a risky business and there is often little warning before that risk confronts us. 

What should have been a typical weekend night shift for two of our members in St Kilda, if there is such a thing, quickly turned volatile when they were set upon and assaulted by an angry mob after making an arrest. 

What started as police responding to a call for assistance for a vulnerable person who had allegedly been assaulted, ended with two of our own leaving the scene in the back of an ambulance. 

Their ordeal was captured on camera by a passing motorist. The images of two officers being violently kicked, punched, spat on and one having his head rammed into the pavement six times generated a palpable anger that resonated throughout the community. 

Like many of you I watched the footage, fearful that what I was witnessing could lead to the death or serious injury of one of our members. It was more than just uncomfortable viewing, it made me sick to my stomach. 

The incident sent shockwaves through our membership. Many of you have taken the time to communicate your utter disgust, concern, and of course support for our members. I am sure that we all saw ourselves, to some extent, in that clip – knowing that this could be any member on any shift. 

As you would rightly expect, we immediately voiced our outrage on your behalf at what we saw and condemned the cowardly actions of those responsible. In the days and week following, we took aim at the growing lack of respect that confronts our members on the street every day, not by all, but by a dangerous few. 

Judging by the comments and feedback in papers and on social media on this incident, we can be confident that as a policing community we enjoy strong public support. 

We must reserve some acknowledgement too for the combined support and effort of investigators who so quickly moved to identify and arrest those responsible, working around the clock to get the job done. The alleged offenders identified have been brought before the courts. This case will test our newly reformed sentencing laws, which were introduced last year at our behest to punish and deter those who intentionally injure our colleagues. 

Like many of you I watched the footage, fearful that what I was witnessing could lead to the death or serious injury of one of our members. 

The court has already been criticized by some for its decision to grant bail to the accused. Bail remains a contentious issue within the community and the police force, but our focus must be on sentencing. It is there that this new legislation will be tested and the true gauge of how much we, as a community and as a justice system, prize the health and safety of our police and PSOs will be set. 

Attacks on police and PSOs occur during the course of simple arrests, in the course of a critical incident and, at times, randomly. Even as I write this piece, our team is providing support to four more members, injured in two separate assaults over one single weekend. Two members were attacked at the Grand Prix and another two at a family violence incident. 

Each incident was caused by an offender’s intentional (or reckless) conduct and has led to the affected members suffering injuries as a result of their work. 

As an Association, we are doing all we can to stop this. 

We are advocating for laws to be strengthened, and for loopholes to be closed – as they have been recently. We are seeing new offences introduced to make people that seek to harm us held accountable, but we are reaching a point where our work alone will amount to little if it is not supported by strong expressions of specific deterrence at court. 

We will be watching. 

EB draws closer 

As our Enterprise Bargaining period draws closer, The Police Association is preparing to submit our log of claims to Victoria Police with a view to commence bargaining in July. 

We have heard via media reports in the last month that the Government has budgetary pressures, caused by reduced stamp duty revenue and is looking to review and adjust its pay policy accordingly. 

While revenue generated from house sales peaks and plateaus, the work and commitment of our members to the safety of the Victorian Community has never and will never waver.

That should never be forgotten. 

We will work hard to achieve a fair outcome for our members, one that meets your current and emerging needs. 

During the EB period and beyond, we plan to engage with our members more intensely than ever before. We will communicate with you about the issues that matter to you as a collective, but also as individuals, whenever we can. We will use all streams and platforms including our email newsletters, this Journal, our app, Facebook, Twitter and other modes of social media to talk to you about the issues that we are working on. 

We recognise that while all of our members are equal and important, many have different and divergent needs. 

We encourage you to engage with us on any of these platforms and engage with us about the issues that matter to you, so that we can address them. That’s not confined to this EB cycle, but more broadly, pertaining to matters that can make your working life a better one.