MTM Authorised Officers
*Please note: Do not take anything written in this article as professional legal advice. For legal advice, always seek the opinion of a professional.
It’s a hard job, a challenging job. Authorised Officers, often referred to as ‘Ticketies’ and occasionally ‘dog’ or ‘scum’; patrol Melbourne Trains, Trams and Buses and associated properties. They have the same powers as Victoria Police to arrest people in violation of the Transport Act and Regulations. This power is occasionally disputed by ignorant people think that they ‘know their rights’. They see Melbourne’s Public Transport Network at it’s worst, when the frustrations of it’s commuters are at their most high.
Authorised officers are often seen in one of two ways: As a presence that makes people feel safer traveling on public transport, or as someone to be feared or hated. Usually the way they are perceived depends upon whether the person seeing them is intending to do something illegal. For most people traveling on Melbourne’s Public Transport Network, the only interaction they have with Authorised Officers is the occasional need to hand over their Myki to be checked.
That ‘Q’ Word
That ‘q’ word is ‘quota’. In the past, Authorised Officers may have had a quota of fines to hand out, but when the spotlight fell on them they were instructed by the Department of Transport that there were no quotas. Quota remains an unspoken word amongst Authorised Officers. While there is no official quota of fines, there is an unspoken understanding. Authorised Officers who return to base with less than a certain number will often be told by their ‘Team Leaders’ to go back out right up until the end of their shift.
Section 225 of the Transport (Compliance and Mischellaneous) Act 1983 makes it an offence to assault, resist, obstruct, hinder or refuse to comply with a lawful request or direction of an Authorised Officer.
225 is also the term used by Authorised Officers to describe an occasion when they have had to physically arrest an offender.
Laws are useless if there is not anybody around to enforce them, if people committing criminal acts were allowed to just walk away from Police without being physically restrained then there would be no point having Police. it’s the same with Authorised Officers.
Often bystanders or Social Media readers will make the comment that “All this because of a $3 ticket”? It’s not because of a $3 ticket. Almost always it is because a person has refused to give verified name and details and attempted to walk away or because they have physically assaulted an Authorised Officer. Sure, the lack of a $3 ticket may have started the incident, but it is almost always the further actions of an offender that cause the escalation.
Authorised Officers in the News
The only time Authorised Officers get any publicity is when they get into a 225 situation with a passenger. Often the publicity is the result of the person being physically restrained making a complaint. Often we will see video of an Authorised Officer holding down an offender, but we rarely see what happened to cause it. We rarely see the offender spitting in the face of the Authorised Officer, or attempting to kick or punch them. We only see the end result, and often it is accompanied with the cry of “Excessive Force”. Social Media is full of videos of offenders being held down by Authorised Officers.
- School kid gets detained by Transit Police at Windsor Station 15/10/2014
- Metro Ticket Inspectors vs 15 Year Old Girl
In most cases, reading through the comments of these videos will give some idea of the general attitude towards Authorised Officers and the lack of understanding of their role. (Reddit users seem to be a bit more intelligent than youtube users though)
What to do if you are questioned by Authorised Officers
To put it simply. Do what they ask you to do and keep calm. There is always time to contest a fine later. If you start to swear at them or make things difficult, the only result will be difficulty for you.
What to do if you are witness to a 225
Do not get involved. Even if you think that the Authorised Officers are using excessive force. By all means, video record the incident and offer it as evidence to MTM and PTV. Offer it as evidence to any Victoria Police who attend the scene (after they have finished questioning the offender). Just be aware that you may have missed the reason for the use of physical force.
Caught Between Giants Fighting
Authorised Officers are constantly caught between the different directions and orders of their employers MTM, the Government’s Public Transport Victoria and the independent review of the Victorian Ombudsman.
Each have different opinions of which direction Authorised Officers should be going and what Authorised Officers should be doing.
PTV have given Authorised Officers numerous powers in the Public Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) ACT to do their job. MTM constantly push Authorised Officers away from the job that they are meant to be doing so that a manager can get a bonus for hitting KPI’s. The Victorian Ombudsman often has no idea what the job of the Authorised Officer is and can on occasions get things completely wrong.
Incompetence and bullying make the job of the Authorised Officer even harder.
Take for example:
MTM and PTV then threatened and suspended the wrong Authorised Officer. That Authorised Officer was told during official investigations that “I can tear you apart and have you in tears within minutes.”
When suspended he was told that if he lodged an appeal (within 28 days) that he would be de-authorised and effectively terminated.
Authorised Officers are given the legal tools to do their job by the Victorian Government, but are being hamstrung by their employers who are ruled by complaint and injury KPI’s.
Authorised Officers as a general rule just want Metro Trains Melbourne to let them do their job.
MTM then limit the Authorised Officer’s Statuatory abilities with internal policies and procedures. Authorised Officers who get involved in 225 events are threatened with disciplinary action and termination. For doing their jobs.
These “Do not touch” internal policy and procedures could well be interpreted as breaches of Section 225(3) which makes it an offence to hinder or obstruct an Authorised Officer from doing their job.
Suicides and Workplace Bullying
It has been reported that there have been 5 suicides in the past 8 years amongst Authorised Officers. This is amongst a workforce of approximately 500. The national rate of suicide in Australia in 2012 was 1.1 for every 10,000 Australians. That makes the rate of Suicides amongst Authorised Officers 12 times higher than the National average.
While this tragic loss of life cannot all be placed upon the doorstep of MTM, the much higher than average rate should be investigated; as should the stress and pressures put upon Authorised Officers by MTM management.
If you or someone you know is in need of help, please contact Lifeline on 131 114.
Or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636
If someone you know is in crisis, please don’t hesitate to contact 000 Emergency Services.
Anyone in need of help can contact Lifeline on 131 114.