Victoria’s Police Association says no planning has been done for how officers will guard nine inner Melbourne public housing buildings

Published by news.com.au on 5 July 2020

Victoria’s Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt says no planning has been done for how officers will guard nine inner Melbourne public housing buildings currently under hard lockdown due to a coronavirus outbreak.

Sergeant Gatt on Sunday said the measures had been sprung on police and called for clear direction to be given to officers tasked with monitoring the apartment complexes in Flemington and North Melbourne.

He said police members had been recalled to duty on Saturday evening to help with the response.

“We don’t have a plan at this point,” Sgt Gatt told reporters on Sunday afternoon.

“We have some ideas and I’m hoping that through discussions with Victoria Police this afternoon we actually arrive at a plan that can work.

“These are important tasks and the police don’t in anyway relinquish their responsibility to actually help out. Our members have been at the frontline for four months helping the community and putting themselves out there in harm’s way.

“They are more than happy, they take that responsibility and they’ll honour that but they want to do it safely and they don’t want to endanger the community or others in that process.”

Sgt Gatt said police have had little more training than the rest of the broader community in respect to dealing with coronavirus but through good hygiene practices had managed to limit the spread of infection among officers.

“We have to take the same approach to a large scale operation like this, you just can’t jump into it and throw caution to the wind without a plan to succeed,” he said.

He said it was up to the State Government to determine what other agencies were also tasked to support the public housing lockdown, but said police were willing to work with everyone, including the Australian Defence Force, which was “relevant consideration” to help get the job done.

“At the moment it’s Victoria Police doing most of the heavy lifting in respect to this operation and we should be supported,” Sgt Gatt said.

“It’s the flats in Flemington and North Melbourne today, it could be Williamstown or South Melbourne tomorrow.

“Please remember (police are) not there to harm or hurt anybody, we’re simply there for the safety of others.”

Victoria Police command were not available to speak to the media on Sunday.

State Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien called for the ADF to be brought in to assist police monitoring the public housing estates.

“Better to use ADF personnel to assist in the public housing estates than take another 500 police off the streets where they’re keeping Victorians safe,” he told reporters on Sunday.

“They can help us out and goodness knows we need help at the moment.

“We need an army, why Daniel Andrews won’t use the Australian Defence Force personnel to secure hotel quarantine, to assist police on the public housing estates is the great unknown.”

Premier Daniel Andrews said Victoria Police were appropriately briefed and trained.

“I am reassured by the approach that Shane Patton, as the chief commissioner, is taking,” he said.

Mr Andrews said at least 500 police officers per shift would be securing the perimeter of the buildings as well as being on each floor responsible for monitoring residents to make sure they are complying with the restrictions and staying in their home and not using shared spaces.

Mr Andrews said the State Government were in conversations with Victoria Police throughout the day on Saturday, when the lockdown measures were implemented.