In the wake of the Manchester bombing, Melbourne mayor Robert Doyle has called for Victorian police to be armed with assault rifles. Doyle’s controversial statements, made in an interview on 3AW, shocked right wing presenter Neil Mitchell. “You can’t have a bloke on point duty or walking down the beat carrying one”, he responded.
“Yes you can … and they’ve done it in France for a very long time”, Doyle said, referring to state of emergency laws under which French troops have been deployed on streets across the country for more than 18 months. These laws have also been used to outlaw and suppress protests and dissent in France.
Doyle’s call to arm local police with the gun that was reportedly named by Hitler – who thought that assault rifle sounded more frightening than machine gun – is just the latest push to militarise Australian police.
The secretary of the Victorian Police Association has strongly supported Doyle’s suggestion, pointing out that the association has been making the same demand for more than 10 years. Similar proposals are also under consideration by NSW police.
Already, the weapons stockpile of the Victorian police is terrifying. Paramilitary wings such as the Special Operations Group have access to submachine guns, shotguns, stun grenades, armoured cars and the type of sonic weapons used in Iraq and Afghanistan to disperse crowds.
It’s not just the specialist squads either – after decades of militarisation, general duties cops are also more heavily armed than ever. Carrying a gun has been mandatory for all police since 1993, and standard issue revolvers were replaced with rapid firing semi-automatic handguns in 2010. General duties police have also been issued with pepper spray since 1996, and tasers since 2010.
And, since 2011, more than a thousand protective services officers have been employed to stalk the train network. PSOs receive 12 weeks of training before they hit the rails, each armed with a gun, pepper spray and a baton.
More weapons in the hands of police do not make ordinary people safer – they only make the cops more violent. Australian police have killed at least six people using supposedly non-lethal tasers since 2002. Between 2011 and 2014, Victorian police were found to have used pepper spray more than 90 times against children under the age of 15.