Ombudsman calls for greater focus on customer service on transport network

Date posted:

A culture of customer service is vital to public confidence in the authorised officers who patrol Melbourne’s transport network.

This view informs the recommendations in a report tabled today in the Victorian Parliament 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," Ms Glass said.

"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 principal role of authorised officers is to provide customer service.

"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."

Restraints by authorised officers of various kinds are not uncommon. There were 690 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," Ms Glass said.

"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," she said.

"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."

In the interests of transparency, the Ombudsman has released CCTV footage from the station , as well as smartphone video used as evidence in the investigation.

Read: Investigation into an incident of alleged excessive force used by authorised officers

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