Australian Police Officer Quits After Seeing Force Treat COVID-19 Protesters ‘Like Foreign Invaders’

By Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts is a reporter currently based in Turkey. She covers news and business for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on the United States.
October 13, 2021 Updated: October 14, 2021

A second member of the Victoria Police force has joined former Acting Senior Sergeant Krystle Mitchell in breaking rank over criticism of how directions from the state’s chief health officer are being enforced.

In Australia, chief health officers have emergency powers under the Biosecurity Security Act 2015 to make and impose public health orders in attempts to protect human health from COVID-19.

Mitchell, who has worked for Victoria Police for more than 16 years, quit the force after going public with criticism of how police had enforced the directions in an interview with media studio Discernable, which aired on Oct. 8.

Craig Backman, a former senior constable with Victoria Police, has also resigned from the force.

In a Facebook post, Backman describes himself as “until recently, a proud Senior Constable” and said he had written an email to management of Victoria Police on Sept. 17, in which he outlined his reasons for “refusing to be a part of any activity that I believed unfairly breached the Human Rights of Victorian citizens, as ordered by the Victorian Government.”

Speaking to local show Cafe Locked Out on Wednesday, Backman said he made the decision to leave the force because, “my personal beliefs about what I believe to be right and ethical appear to be at complete odds with the organization.”

“How can I possibly reconcile myself with working for an organization that is involved with the enforcement of the removal of human rights? That’s the opposite of what I felt that I was joining,” Backman said, citing basic human rights such as freedom of movement, freedom of speech, the freedom of association, and the freedom of bodily autonomy.

Backman spoke of the recent protests at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance, the city’s most famous war memorial, which saw protesters involved in tense standoffs with police.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison branded the protests “highly distressing,” telling reporters, “That is not an appropriate response to trying to deal with an outbreak of this nature.”

Videos showed police firing shots of pepper balls at at unarmed civilians as they sought to disperse crowds. A separate video showed a policeman tackling a woman onto the ground.

Backman said that he felt “heartbroken” watching the incident play out on TV, knowing that the situation “could have been completely avoided.”

“Once again we’re talking about people’s rights here,” he said. “Is it justified to shoot someone in the back because they’re at a location where you don’t want them to be? In my humble opinion, that’s not even a question that needs to be asked. That is an absolute no way,” Backman added.

Australia Melbourne
Police arrest construction workers and demonstrators with tear gas on the steps of the Shrine of Remembrance during a protest against COVID-19 regulations in Melbourne, Australia, on Sept. 22, 2021. (William West/AFP via Getty Images)

“Those things that I saw in Victoria I never imagined I would ever see anything like that, barring an invasion from a foreign enemy. Not from people who were being told they weren’t allowed to go to work unless they participated in a medical trial.”

“Now these people were fighting just to be heard. All they wanted was to be heard. And they were treated like foreign invaders. Is it justified use of force to shoot someone as they were fleeing? Absolutely not, in my opinion. And if anybody was injured I would suggest it’d be well within their rights to make a complaint about it,” he added.

Backman said he saw police officers firing “indiscriminately at people just to try to make them disperse after they’d already agreed to disperse” and has seen images of those who were injured during the protest, with some who displayed multiple shots to the back.

melbourne protesters run
Construction workers and demonstrators react after police fire tear gas around the Shrine of Remembrance during a protest against COVID-19 regulations in Melbourne, Australia, on Sept. 22, 2021. (Con Chronis/AFP via Getty Images)

“Frankly I was absolutely disgusted. Absolutely disgusted and I was embarrassed. And I made that decision after that day that … there was no way that I could possibly be able to associate myself with this organization that thinks that they can justify that behavior,” he said.

Backman also noted clear differences in how Australia’s COVID-19 protests have been handled by police compared to other protests, such as those regarding the Black Lives Matter movement, stating that the latter had seen police simply issue penalty notices to event organizers.

The former senior constable said he hopes that by sharing his own personal beliefs on how the police force have responded to COVID-19 protests, it will make the general public realize that “not all police are their enemy.”

“How [the community] once supported the police and now they no longer do,” he observed, adding, “And I knew that there were so many of my colleagues that don’t really want to be having any part of this. And it was heartbreaking to me to see that loss of community relationship that we’d built over many years just be burned to the ground in a few days.”

“And I think it’s been coming for a while with this COVID stuff, it’s been detrimental to the relationships as a whole. But the way they’ve responded to these protests that they’ve been doing in regards to the mandates—that seems to me that it’s the message they’re trying to silence, and nothing else,” he continued.

In his Facebook post one day prior, Backman said that he had hoped his email to Victoria Police management would be taken seriously, however he claims he has not received a response to his letter.

Victoria Police told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement: “Victoria Police is aware of an interview conducted by a senior constable on social media last night. While the member has tendered his resignation, he is still a current serving police officer and is on leave until his resignation takes effect later this month.

“We understand people have the right to their opinions, but it is critical that all police officers remain apolitical while they are serving police officers. Police cannot pick and choose what laws we enforce and the current CHO [chief health officer] directions are set by the Victorian government based on health advice.

“The matter is now being investigated by Professional Standards Command and it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.”

Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts is a reporter currently based in Turkey. She covers news and business for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on the United States.