Written By: Darcie Boelen
Image Credit: Greens NZ
WA Police will be required to carry firearms at all Anzac Day ceremonies and parades tomorrow.
Police were informed on Thursday that it is compulsory for all Western Australian Police Officers – including off-duty officers marching in uniform – to wear full accoutrements, which includes pistols, Tasers, batons and pepper sprays.
The decision has been described as “unprecedented but necessary” by the WA Police Union and is likely a result of tensions caused by the arrest of five Melbourne teenagers who planned to target police at Anzac Day services this Saturday.
A fourteen year old UK boy involved with the Melbourne teens has been arrested in Britain and charged with inciting terrorism overseas, after he communicated with and encouraged them to attack and even behead other Australians on Anzac Day.
There are similar actions being taken in Victoria where security measures will be heightened for Anzac Day, with boosted guards and police presence at the MCG for the annual football match between Essendon and Collingwood.
The official broadcast sent to police officers reported that while there was no evidence that there were any terror plots in WA, the arrests in Victoria “should put everyone on notice to exercise vigilance and raised awareness of suspicious activity”.
Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan has said that “police are at direct threat this year”, and that it was “also about members of the public”.
This is the first time police will carry lethal weapons at an Anzac Day service in Australia. Police did not carry guns after other significant terrorist actions, such as the September 11 Attacks. However, in the last few years, the threat of terrorism has increased significantly in Australia.
In December, a gunman held eighteen people hostage at the Lindt café in Sydney, and as a result two civilians were killed. In September 2014, police carried out raids in Sydney and Brisbane, foiling a plot to carry out random public beheadings, and another plan to attack Parliament House was discovered. In 2010, three men were found guilty of planning an attack on Holsworthy Army Base in New South Wales which hosts up to 2,000 soldiers.
Increasing security measures shows that the police are wary and the risk of a terror attack is higher than it has been in previous years. However, Military Vice-Admiral Ray Griggs said that we should still attend ceremonies and parades to commemorate our fallen soldiers. “This Anzac Day is an important occasion to reflect on our history and honour more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in service to our nation over the past 100 years.”
Anzac Day services and parades are taking place nation-wide tomorrow and hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend.