The Bill extends to Protective Services Officers a range of powers that were previously only available to sworn police officers. These include:
- the power to arrest a person on bail under s 24 Bail Act 1977;
- the power of search and seizure of weapons under the Control of Weapons Act 1990;
- the power to arrest 'on reasonable grounds' found at s 459 Crimes Act 1958;
- the powers related to youths found chroming under Part IV Division 2 of the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981;
- powers about littering under the Environment Protection Act 1970;
- the power to search and issue fines under the Graffiti Prevention Act 2007;
- the power to demand proof of age, to seize liquor and issue fines under the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998;
- power to apprehend a person under s 10 of the Mental Health Act 1986;
- power to stop motor vehicles, make directions, and issue parking fines under the Road Safety Act 1986;
- power to make move on directions and arrest people for being drunk under the Summary Offences Act 1966;
- powers to require identification, arrest suspects and issue fines under the Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983.
All of these powers will be conditional on being exercised at a designated place or other place specified in the legislation. The Explanatory Memorandum states [at Clause 4] that, "'Designated places' will be prescribed by regulation". The focus seems to be on railway stations but there's no restriction on what sort of place can be designated. Protective Services Officers currently patrol Parliament House, court buildings and the Shrine of Remembrance.
The additional penalty available to a court for assaulting a police officer under s 31 of the Crimes Act 1958 and s 51 of the Summary Offences Act 1966 will now also apply to Protective Services Officers.
Section 118B(1) of the Police Regulation Act has already been amended by the Police Regulation Amendment (Protective Services Officers) Act 2010 to read,
(1) The Chief Commissioner may, in accordance with the regulations, appoint and promote so many protective services officers as the Governor in Council
thinks necessary for the purposes of providing services for the protection of—
(a) persons holding certain official or public offices;
(b) the general public in certain places;
(c) certain places of public importance.
The restriction to 150 officers at s 118B(1A) has already been repealed.
The Victoria Police website says that police recruits receive 33-weeks training. This compares with a current 8-week training program for Protective Services Officers, according to their current recruiting material. Acting Chief Commissioner Ken Lay has reportedly said this will need to be increased to 12-weeks.
Although the media attention seems to focus on whether or not these officers are armed, the more serious concern may be whether they fully understand and are able to properly exercise their wide array of statutory powers.
The default commencement date of the Justice Legislation Amendment (Protective Services Officers) Bill 2011 is 1 July 2012.