Blue army: paramilitary policing in Victoria
Document TypePhD thesis
CitationsMcCulloch, J. (1998). Blue army: paramilitary policing in Victoria. PhD thesis, Faculty of Arts, The University of Melbourne.
Access StatusOpen Access
Deposited with permission of the author © 1998 Dr.Jude McCulloch
This thesis focuses on the changes to law enforcement precipitated by the establishment of counter terrorist squads within State police forces during the late 1970's. It looks at the impact of Victoria's specialist counter terrorist squad, the Special Operations Group (SOG), on policing in Victoria and asks whether the group has led to the development of a more 'military based' approach to policing. The research demonstrates that the SOG has been the harbinger of more military styles of policing involving high levels of confrontation, more lethal weapons and a greater range of weapons and more frequent recourse to deadly force. The establishment of groups like the SOG has also undermined Australia's democratic traditions by blurring the boundaries between the police and military and weakening the safeguards which have in then past prevented military force being used against citizens. The SOG has acted as a vanguard group within Victoria police, anticipating and leading progress towards a range of new military-style tactics and weapons. The SOG, although relatively small in number,, has had a marked influence on the tactics and operations of police throughout the force. The group was never contained to dealing with only terrorist incidents but instead used for a range of more traditional police duties. While terrorism has remained rare in Australia the SOG has nevertheless expanded in size and role. Because the SOG is considered elite and because the SOG are frequently temporarily seconded to other areas of policing, SOG members provide a role for other police and have the opportunity to introduce parliamentary tactics into an extended range of police duties. The parliamentary skills developed by the SOG have been passes on to ordinary police through training programs headed by former SOG officers. In addition, the group has effectively been used as a testing ground for new weapons. The structure of the Victoria Police Protective Security Group and the way public demonstrations and industrial disputes are viewed in police and security circles ensure that parliamentary counter terrorist tactics will be used to stifle dissent and protest. The move towards paramilitary policing is necessarily a move away from the police mandate to protect life, keep the peace and use only minimum force. The interrogation of SOG and SOG tactics into everyday policing has occurred without any public debate or recognition of the important democratic traditions that have ensured that military force is not used against citizens except in the most extreme circumstances. Although the SOG is not formally part of the military it is nevertheless a significant parliamentary force virtually indistinguishable in terms of the weapons and levels of force at its disposal from the military proper.
Keywordsblue army; Victoria police; Australia; Special Operations Group (SOG); law enforcement; 1970's; Victoria Police Protective Security Group
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