Police want a state of disaster declared to give them more power

Published by The Age on 25 March 2020

Victoria's powerful Police Association wants Premier Daniel Andrews to declare a state of disaster to boost police powers to enforce self-isolation and bans on mass gatherings, and to better mobilise resources.

Association secretary Wayne Gatt said such a move was warranted given the increasing demands on police and other agencies to deal with a rapidly evolving public health crisis.

It would mean force command and the 500 officers participating in Operation Sentinel could act independently of the Department of Health and Human Services, which is currently authorised under Victoria's March 16 state of emergency declaration to enforce quarantine measures and bans on mass gatherings.

At present, police have to await directions from health officials before being able to take action against those in breach of quarantine or social-distancing orders. Senior Sergeant Gatt said this process was clunky and inefficient.

He praised Mr Andrews and his government for their strong leadership, applauding the Premier for telling the public "the honest truth about what needs to be done to save lives".

"Our members need to be able to walk the Premier's talk," Senior Sergeant Gatt said.

He said the declaration of a state of disaster, as was done in a localised fashion to respond to the recent bushfires, would create opportunities for other government agencies to be more efficient in responding to unprecedented demands.

When Mr Andrews declared a state of emergency nine days ago, Victoria had 71 confirmed COVID-19 cases. At 2pm on Wednesday, the state had 466 confirmed cases.