Proposed new police powers are excessive and will be used to target Aboriginal people, the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service has warned.
The Victorian Government’s Justice Legislation Amendment (Police and Other Matters) Bill would allow police to order someone to leave the vicinity of a police station if they are “antagonistic”, even if they are not breaking any law, VALS said.
Refusing to follow this order would be a criminal offence.
VALS chief executive Nerita Waight said the powers were over the top.
“Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people are more likely to have negative interactions with police, because of the police force’s history of racism, and ongoing systemic racism,” she said.
“Our community will inevitably bear the brunt of these new proposals.
“The Victorian Government needs to stop giving Victoria Police everything they ask for and start addressing the many scandals and cultural problems within the Victoria Police.”
Victorian Police Minister Anthony Carbines said the legislation gave police additional powers to protect the security of police premises, similar to existing powers at Courts.
“We are working to improve Victoria’s police oversight system to ensure it is strong, transparent, and meets the needs of all Victorians – including Aboriginal Victorians – and it is vital we take the time to get these important reforms right,” he said.
“We are carefully considering all feedback received to date to ensure our police oversight system is more effective and places greater focus on the needs of complainants and victims of police misconduct, and will continue to work with the Victorian community, IBAC, Victoria Police and other stakeholders to strengthen the mechanisms for police oversight and accountability.”
Mr Carbines said the government had increased funding and support for the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission – which includes police oversight functions.
The new laws will give police officers authority to direct a person to leave premises if the officer believes it is necessary to preserve peace or maintain the security of the police premises.
In a statement, VALS said Victorian police already had extensive powers to deal with people who may pose a threat, including move-on orders and breach of the peace orders, which the Service says are already used disproportionately against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“This will bring more people into contact with the criminal legal system to face potentially crippling financial penalties,” VALS said.
“Instead of addressing the deep-seated problems within Victoria Police, the Victorian Government continues giving them more money, weapons, staff, and power.
“The Government should be focusing on what actually needs to be done – the long overdue overhaul of police oversight.”