Police to get special powers for CHOGM

The West Australian government has introduced legislation into parliament giving police officers special powers to crack down on protesters during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

WA Police Minister Rob Johnson said CHOGM, to be held in Perth from October 28-30, will be the biggest international event for the city in decades.

“It is, therefore, vital that police and other security personnel have the necessary powers during this event to ensure the smooth running of the meeting and the safety and security of the delegates and the community in general,” Mr Johnson told the WA parliament on Wednesday.

The CHOGM Special Powers Bill will give police and authorised people security powers such as the ability to stop and search people in designated security areas and to close roads.

Mr Johnson said that given the possibility of protests and disruptive behaviour, police needed extra powers during the course of the event.

“CHOGM provides the opportunity for persons aggrieved by actions of one or more participating states to publicise their particular cause,” he said.

“The behaviour of anarchist groups at the G10 meeting in Toronto, Canada, provide a vivid example of the challenges that may confront police and other security officers during CHOGM.

“Overt displays of public disorder are just one of the risks. Other risks, such as acts of terrorism, must also be guarded against.”

The bill provides for the Corruption and Crime Commission to examine anyone, including juveniles, suspected of wanting to harm people and facilities associated with CHOGM.

Mr Johnson said that was because “some of the groups looking to engage in extreme acts are known to recruit juveniles and indoctrinate them to their cause”.

Under the bill, police will be able to search and frisk people within a designated security area and order them to walk through an electronic screening device or have their belongings X-rayed.

During any such search, people may be required to remove headwear, footwear, jackets or coats and be “detained for a long as reasonable,” Mr Johnson told parliament.

Police would also have the power to search vehicles or vessels, order people to provide their personal details and set up check-points, cordons and road blocks around security areas.

Most of the powers granted under the bill would expire on November 5.

Mr Johnson said the WA government also had approved more than $12.2 million of additional funding for police in order to establish a 24-hour command centre, recruit more officers and purchase further vehicles.

However, he said, this would not be the final cost.

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