Queensland Police to Get More Power


By Sonia Hickey and Ugur Nedim

Normally, police across Australia require a warrant or a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing before they are permitted to subject individuals to a personal search.

However, police in Queensland are set to be given extra powers in time for the April 2018 Commonwealth Games, an event based on the Gold Coast.

The state government has introduced new laws allowing police to stop and search people, cars and premises as they please during the Games period.

The legislation allows areas where large numbers of people gather to be declared ‘protective security zones’ – which can be on land or in water, and can include major transport hubs and sporting venues.

The new laws will allow police to frisk search anyone entering or within a protected security zone, and inspect anything they have with them.

The new powers will also give police the ability to stop, detain and search vehicles that are in, or entering, a protective security zone, and even to search premises such as shops within a zone.

However, the powers do not extend to homes – unless police have a warrant, or the occupier gives consent, or police reasonably suspect an offence ‘that will endanger the safety of a person may be committed in, or from, the residence’.

Police will not be required to fill out the usual ‘enforcement registers’ for searches, so there will be no formal records of the searches.

Sniffer Dogs and Move on Directions

Police will also be allowed to use a firearms and explosives detection dogs on anyone entering or in a protective security zone, and to give people within these zones directions to move on if they believe it is necessary for public safety.

Protective Security Zones

The number, location and size of the protective security zones is yet to be determined, but areas will be published in maps made available to the public.

The Police Commissioner will have the power to quickly declare a protected security zone if he feels there is an ‘urgent need’.

Public Safety

Queensland Police Minister Mark Ryan says the new laws are all about protecting members of the public.

“Public safety is paramount and these new laws for the Games are about keeping the public safe in public places and adding another tool to the existing suite of strategies that police employ to ensure our safety,” Mr Ryan said in a statement.

Police will be assisted during the Games by security officers from four different companies, as well as specialist personnel from other law enforcement agencies such as the Australian Defence Force.

Concerns

However, many believe the fear of terrorism is being used once again to unjustifiably brush side basic civil liberties, specifically the freedom from being subjected to arbitrary bodily searches.

There are also concerns about socio-economic and racial profiling – that move on directions will target the homeless, and that searches will disproportionately be used against ethnic minorities and the poor.

There are further concerns about the fact that police are not required to keep records of searches, which can decrease accountability by making it more difficult for anyone who is mistreated to substantiate a complaint.

There are additional concerns about the the Police Commissioner being given independent power to select anywhere as a ‘protective security zone’  if he feels there an urgent need to do so.

And there is the general concern that these ‘temporary’ laws will be declared by police to be a necessary part of law enforcement, and ultimately extended to all ‘major events’ or even further.

The Commonwealth Games will be hosted in 18 different venues throughout Queensland over 11 days – involving 6,500 athletes. They start on April 4, 2018 and the new rules will last until April 22.


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