Victoria Police has come a long way in building our relationship with the Jewish community – a relationship built on mutual respect, trust, and cultural understanding.
All police members understand and respect the observance of Yom Kippur and are proud, in a small way each year, to help the community celebrate safely.
This year, every single member of the Victorian community has overcome unique challenges due to the impact of the ongoing pandemic. Taking these challenges into account, police continue to provide our community with fluid responses, listening and adapting to the needs of our community.
Police empathise with the fact that Yom Kippur celebrations were unable to proceed in their normal fashion this year, however the scenes from last week where a small group of people within the Jewish community blatantly breached the Chief Health Officer directions, taking part in an illegal gathering on September 7 on Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea were simply unacceptable.
Our disappointment is not only in this small section of the community, but with every single Victorian who shows a blatant disregard for the health and safety of others by ignoring the Chief Health Officers restrictions that are put in place to keep us all safe.
Victoria Police’s number one priority is to keep the community safe and we make no apologies for taking the necessary action to do so, whether that be from a security threat or ensuring the Chief Health Officer directions are adhered to.
Working collaboratively with leaders in the Jewish community, police undertake operations during Jewish High Holy Days each year. In more normal times, this operation is singularly focused on the safety and security of the community at these important times.
Sadly, after last week’s incident, we saw an increase in antisemitic comments and received a large number of calls from across the Jewish community expressing concern. On top of this, police also received several reports from concerned community members around potential breaches of restrictions currently in place. As a result, an increased police presence was required across the Glen Eira and Port Phillip areas to ensure the community was safe.
The police operation included members from the Public Order Response Team and Mounted Branch who supported local police. This is common practice, particularly when the operation has, at its core, providing a highly visible presence to deter all and any type of illegal behaviour. For example, with restrictions impacting the communities movement over the past summer, we regularly deployed similar models to busy public areas such as St Kilda beach, the Royal Botanical Gardens, and the Chadstone shopping complex to prevent illegal gatherings and keep the community safe.
We are aware some people have expressed concern around the sight of frontline police and officers on horseback across Ripponlea and Elsternwick, we have also been reassured by a significant number of community members that they were extremely grateful to know police support was nearby if required.
Victoria Police has a wonderful relationship with the Jewish community, and we are committed to continuing to engage with the community, to educate our members on cultural diversity, and respond to incidents in a professional manner.
Every single Victoria Police officer is here to help, support and protect our community at any time of the day. This support is unconditional, regardless of your identity, where you come from, your ethnicity, faith, or background.
Russell Barrett is Assistant Commissioner of Victoria Police.