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

A riot police officer wields a weapon looking onwards at protesters near the Shrine of Remembrance, in Melbourne, Australia, on Sept. 22, 2021. (Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

A second member of the Victoria Police force has joined former Acting Senior Sergeant Krystle Mitchell聽in breaking rank over criticism of how directions from the聽state鈥檚 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,聽quit the force after going public with criticism of how police had enforced the directions in聽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,聽Backman describes himself as “until recently, a聽proud聽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,聽Backman said he made the decision to leave the force because, “my personal beliefs聽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鈥檚 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聽most famous war memorial, which saw protesters involved in tense standoffs with police.

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

Videos showed police firing shots of聽pepper balls at at unarmed civilians as they sought to disperse crowds.聽A separate video聽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鈥檙e talking about people鈥檚 rights here,” he said.聽“Is it justified to shoot someone in the back because they鈥檙e at a location where you don鈥檛 want them to be? In my humble opinion, that鈥檚 not even a question that needs to be asked. That is an absolute no way,”聽Backman added.

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鈥檛 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鈥檇 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鈥檇 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.

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聽Black Lives Matter movement, stating that the latter had seen police simply issue penalty notices to event organizers.

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鈥檛 really want to be having any part of this. And it was heartbreaking to me to see that loss of community relationship that we鈥檇 built over many years just be burned to the ground in a few days.”

“And I think it鈥檚 been coming for a while with this COVID stuff, it鈥檚 been detrimental to the relationships as a whole. But the way they鈥檝e responded to these protests that they鈥檝e been doing in regards to the mandates鈥攖hat seems to me that it鈥檚 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聽Victoria Police management聽would be taken seriously, however he claims he has聽not received a response to his letter.

Pezou has contacted Victoria Police for comment.

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