Police union wants state of disaster declared in Victoria because of COVID-19

Published by the Herald Sun on 25 March 2020

The head of Victoria’s police union has called on Premier Daniel Andrews to declare a state of disaster to give officers more powers to deal with the coronavirus crisis.

The head of Victoria’s police union has called on Premier Daniel Andrews to declare a state of disaster to give officers more powers to deal with the coronavirus crisis.

Police Association Victoria secretary Wayne Gatt praised the Premier for the job he had done so far but said officers needed more power.

A state of disaster was declared earlier this year to help police deal with the Victorian bushfires.

Such a move now would give officers more control in dispersing crowds of people.

Sources have told the Herald Sun police have limited powers to break up gatherings of people - which could become crucial in battling the spread of the deadly virus.

“The Premier’s leadership during this health crisis has been exceptional, he’s told the community the truth and the potential consequences, despite how difficult it must be to deliver,” Mr Gatt said.

“Our police want to walk his talk and do their part to flatten the curve.

“In order to do that, we need an increase in the legislative framework that empowers police to ensure compliance, before the situation worsens any further.”

Police have the power to arrest and fine people who have returned from overseas and are breaking the 14 day self isolation rule.

But their powers are limited when it comes to enforcing the government’s wishes for social gatherings to be banned.

Mr Gatt said more power was essential to give police the ability to maintain control in the face of the pandemic.

“The current system, under a state of emergency means that as police, we take our lead from the Health Department, when in reality it is police who are knocking on doors and in our streets trying to support the government’s moves to slow the spread of infection,” he said.

“Declaring a state of disaster allows the Premier to delegate that authority directly to police.

“The Premier is forecasting the introduction of Stage 3 restrictions. It’s inevitable that our members will be called on further to help enforce this.

“If police are asked to control the movement of people in our community, those powers don’t presently exist in a state of emergency, they could if delegated under a state of disaster.”