It would have been reasonable to assume that, if nothing else, VicPol would have learnt from the errors of policing demonstrations during the COVID-19 pandemic. A lack of consistency and basic mistakes in Command and Control principles caused much of the mayhem and operational missteps.

While policing is confronted with demonstrations or social disorder issues that form part of the fabric of Policing, somewhere along the line, experiences of the past have been lost, reducing the effectiveness of the Police function.

Many former Police officers serving in a different era were shocked and dismayed at the ineptitude during COVID-19. They hoped the mistakes made then would be a lesson and future issues would be handled differently. It seems a forlorn hope.

Several flaws in the COVID response included a lack of consistency in approach. Seemingly, the police response to every event differed, creating confusion among the demonstrators or, more importantly, confusion among the individual members on how to respond.

Thankfully, the COVID era and all its failings seem to be behind us but will not be forgotten for a long time to come, and for all the wrong reasons.

Fast forward to the current issues motivated by the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Large pro-Palestine/Hamas demonstrations are designed to, as far as possible, disrupt the significant commercial hubs within Australia, trying to wreak as much disruption as possible by sheer weight of numbers.

As the fervour of these demonstrations is allowed to fester, the real possibility of demonstrations escalating into insurrection becomes an ever-increasing threat, and that is because of a Police failure.

Instead of taking decisive and consistent action, rather than just being observers when the demonstrations on this issue began, the police made a significant mistake in allowing ideology to enter the operational approach.

It became very evident at the Town Hall demonstration that the line of impartial law enforcement had been crossed.

Recently, a huge group of pro-Palestine/Hamas demonstrators gathered outside the Town Hall to demonstrate issues being debated by the City Council. Entry to the chamber public gallery was by ticketed invitation, and three Australians of Jewish origin with tickets to the event tried to enter the Town Hall to attend the meeting but were violently set upon and blocked by a worked-up pro-Palestine/Hamas crowd.

At that point, the three invitees became victims of unlawful behaviour.

The Police response was counterintuitive to the sworn duty of Police. They removed the three victims and sanctioned them by barring them from the city.

The perpetrators of the assaults were not arrested, albeit they committed the offences in the immediate presence of the Police.

All of this was videotaped, and the vision was available to police.  Arrests and charges ought to have followed.

The actions of the Police gave the demonstrators a huge moral win and set a new standard that assaulting people was acceptable behaviour.

This action by the Police will embolden and escalate future demonstrations in this cause.

The Police excuse that it was an Occupational Health and Safety issue (OH&S); reducing the danger to police from the demonstrators is unacceptable and a dereliction of their sworn duty to act without fear or favour.

Perhaps Inspector Amy Scott of NSW Police thankfully missed the memo about OH&S as interpreted in Victoria and saved many lives as a result.

Policing is an inherently dangerous occupation, and safety is created by competent leadership and planning, appropriate equipment and training.

Victoria Police need to recalibrate their operational approach to demonstrations, and where laws are broken, decisive action must be taken. Policing has no place for cowards.

Lawbreaking without consequences only escalates lawbreaking.

The OH&S Claims at the Town Hall have been exposed as a rampant ideology as the latest mass demonstration saw Police charge demonstrators interfering with traffic lights.

The Victims in those offences were the traffic lights, but when the victims were Jewish, OH&S a different standard was applied – consistency?

There is a strong argument for introducing a permit system for gatherings of over ten people and providing a water cannon as a backup for members’ safety.

There has been a reluctance to provide water cannon technology because it is rarely, if ever, used, and the cost is said to not be justified. However, having a big stick backing the Police would be the smartest way to defuse incidents and reduce police injuries.

Not having specialised emergency management equipment because of a perceived lack of demand is incredibly short-sighted. If we applied that logic to a specialist high-reach fire truck or airport fire appliances, the ‘hue and cry’ if they were needed and were no longer available would cause a justifiable uproar.

The CAA implores Victoria Police to police according to their oath of office ‘without fear or favour’ and to review and change the biased practices we deplore.