VIC Ombudsman report

The Victorian Ombudsman has released findings of an investigation into an incident from 2013

A report from the Victorian Ombudsman has recommended Public Transport Victoria review the training of authorised officers following an incident in Melbourne in 2013.

The report was tabled in Victorian Parliament this week by Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass.

The ‘Investigation into an incident of alleged excessive force used by authorised officers’ began amid public concern over an incident at Flinders Street Station in July 2013, where authorised officers arrested two teenage girls, stemming from alleged fare evasion.

"My investigation has found that one of the arrests involved excessive force, which in my view amounted to a breach of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act," Glass says.

"Authorised officers have an important role in the smooth operation of our public transport system. While ensuring people pay their fares is an element of that, it does not excuse the disproportionate use of force."

The first recommendation in the report is the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources transfer the responsibility of authorised officers entirely to Public Transport Victoria (PTV).

The report then continues to make recommendations to review officer training, assist the Ombudsman in a review of complains and use an external agency to review serious incidents.

 "The principal role of authorised officers is to provide customer service," says Glass.

"I am disappointed however that this is the third report from this office in four years looking at alleged heavy-handed conduct of authorised officers on our public transport network."

There were 690 restraints by authorised officers of various kinds in 2014 with 11 reported injuries.

"In an age of the 24/7 media cycle where almost every passenger carries a camera phone, it is inevitable that this will not be the last highly publicised allegation of excessive force made against authorised officers," says Glass.

"It is also true that video footage does not tell the full story, but it cannot be expected that the Ombudsman will step in every time excessive force is alleged on the transport network.

"Public Transport Victoria needs to investigate such incidents in a way that commands public confidence.

"This should include the use of an external agency to review serious incidents, so Victorians can be reassured that authorised officers reflect community standards in their dealings with the public."

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