With armed protective services officers (PSOs) due to start work at Flinders Street and Southern Cross stations on Wednesday night, Victorian Greens Justice and Police spokesperson Sue Pennicuik MLC said the government is embarking on a costly, unnecessary and risky plan.
“I am very concerned that 18 newly graduated PSOs are heading out tomorrow night with semi-automatic weapons on our most crowded stations,” Ms Pennicuik said.
“PSOs are not police officers. They get a third of the training, less pay and, we have heard, just 3 months supervision under a transit police officer,” Ms Pennicuik said. “Yet they’re expected to go out on day one and deal with anything and everything that happens on the rail network.”
Ms Pennicuik cast doubt on the Premier’s statement at the PSOs’ graduation last Friday that commuters will feel safer seeing “familiar faces” at train stations, and Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay’s comments in the Herald Sun today that PSOs “will provide not just comfort to evening commuters and families, but also a friendly and professional point of contact for those in need of assistance”.
“The Greens agree with people helping passengers to get around and feel comfortable. But armed quasi-police on every station are not required for this. Public transport staff at all stations and transit police at trouble spots is a better solution.”
On the contrary, the Police Chief Commissioner’s formal Instruction on PSOs on the railway network states that PSOs will “focus on addressing incidents of antisocial behaviour, alcohol and drug-related offences, weapon offences and property damage”.
“PSOs will regularly meet people experiencing mental health issues, and people affected by drugs or alcohol. A lot of training and experience is needed to fairly and safely deal with vulnerable people, and PSOs aren’t being given what they need to do their jobs.”
“My hope is that the government wises up after this experiment and winds back its wasteful, impractical and dangerous plan for the rest of the rail network. And does so before someone is injured, or worse.”
Ms Pennicuik said she supported today’s launch of the Your Rights on Track campaign, led by more than 30 legal, community and youth welfare organisations to let train travellers know where they stand when they encounter PSOs: www.facebook.com/PSO.YourRightsOnTrack.
For further comment: Sue Pennicuik (03) 9530 8399