Under a government plan to expand police state measures powers, many of Australia’s “Protective Services Officers” (PSO) could remain in their expanded role COVID crisis role indefinitely, patrolling public transport hubs and major venues, including shopping districts and malls in and around the Melbourne metropolitan area – even after the Coronavirus pandemic is finished.
Victoria Police command and the state government have confirmed that PSO powers will likely be expanded of under an extension of “state-of-emergency” laws.
PSOs are typically recruited and trained to patrol public transport stations at night. Like police, they are authorized to carry a gun, but normally have a limited remit to train stations.
Since the crisis began, the region’s brigade of ‘COVID Cops’ have been busy issuing tickets and fines to people violating social distancing, as well as conducting stop and search operations on residents as part of “Operation Shielding.”
Authorities claim that they are now essential to maintain ‘community safety.’
According to Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton, “PSO presence has made people feel safe during these uncertain times.”
Even though the Coronavirus has had little or no impact on Australia’s health services or population as a whole, government officials seem keen to ramp-up police powers going forward.
The Age reports…
“We’re delivering a flexible and skilled PSO workforce and are looking to enable police to deploy PSOs to more locations – including at shopping centres, major events and major emergencies – while maintaining safety on public transport,” Minister for Police and Emergency Services Lisa Neville said on Wednesday.
PSOs are trained officers recruited to patrol train stations after dark. They have similar powers to police and carry guns, but can only use their powers on duty and in and around designated areas.
Ms Neville said last year she wanted to see PSOs at major events.
Since emergency powers were implemented at the start of April, PSOs have arrested 406 people, handed out 293 infringement notices – including for breaches of COVID-19 restrictions – and stopped and checked more than 7000 people as part of Operation Shielding.
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