Victorian Legislation Aims to Expand Protective Services Officers' Powers

Wednesday 23 August 2017 @ 10.45 a.m. | Crime | Legal Research

Earlier this year in May the Victorian Parliament introduced the Justice Legislation Amendment (Protective Services Officers and Other Matters) Bill 2017 [VIC] (‘the Bill’). The Bill aims to increase and improve the function of police and protective services officers (PSOs) in the community, particularly on public transport, based on the Community Safety Statement 2017. The Bill has passed the House of Assembly, and is currently in the Legislative Council.

The Community Safety Statement 2017

The new Bill proposes to support the Community Safety Statement 2017 (‘the Safety Statement’), and in particular it supports the priority of reducing harm to the community through the expansion of PSO powers. The report committed to install at least 100 extra PSOs to boost mobile patrols at train stations and other public places, which is a $62.3 million investment. The mobile patrols will be determined based on police intelligence about time, location and types of anti-social behaviour and crime across Victoria. The Government also noted in the report that it aims to free up police by expanding the functions of PSOs to optimise safety outcomes.

Key Amendments

The key amendments proposed by the Bill are:

  • Facilitating the deployment of mobile PSOs on public transport and provide them with additional powers such as a wider area of patrol, apprehending pwoers under warrants, and seizure of possessions;
  • The introduction of the new role of Supervising Protective Services Officer, who will have powers to direct other PSOs to lead an individual to other places from a police gaol and to authorise searches and restraints in a police gaol;
  • Amendments in order to enable psychologists (currently only medical professionals are enabled) with specialist training to conduct Victoria Police’s psychological fitness for duty assessments; and
  • The regulation of payments for scrap metal and prevent criminal activity in scrap metal dealings and the banning of payments by cash.

Minister’s Response

The Police Minister Lisa Neville said that the new laws would better utilise PSO’s, giving them more flexibility and powers to cover a wider area of patrol. She said in a media release:

“These measures will ensure that PSOs have the appropriate powers, are in the right places, and working at the right time, to respond to crime hotspots across Melbourne’s public transport network.”

She also noted the introduction of the new role of Supervising PCO:

“We are doing everything we can to make Victorians safer as they go about their lives. This legislation expands the powers of PSOs as well ensuring more sworn Police officers can be on the frontline, due to the new Supervising PCO role.”

Opposition to Bill

The Law Institute of Victoria has expressed concern with the proposed changes, and a spokesperson said:

“We believe PSOs would need additional training and higher skills to enable them to have the power to arrest a person who has breached their parole, conduct searches for illicit drugs, and request names and addresses from people who witness crime. There is also a danger that additional powers could lead to an increase in harassment and arbitrary profiling of vulnerable people.”

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Victorian Justice Legislation Amendment (Protective Services Officers and Other Matters) Bill 2017 [VIC] and second reading speeches, as published on TimeBase LawOne.

Victorian Government, Community Safety Statement 2017.

Elias Clure, ‘Victorian PSOs to be given powers to search, arrest outside train stations,’ (ABC News) 23 May 2017.

Premier of Victoria, Minister for Police, ‘More Powers For PSOs To Keep Victorian Commuters Safe,’ (media release) 23 May 2017.

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