Conducted energy devices – better known as Tasers – are only carried by members of two elite units, the critical incident response team and the specialist operation group, in metropolitan Melbourne. PSOs are equipped with guns and pepper spray.
The start of rollout was delayed until November 2023, which Victoria Police said was to ensure police buildings had secure storage and 10,000 police officers and PSOs were trained to use them.
A Victorian police union spokesperson said the Taser rollout would take time to implement across the force, but was an “important tactical option”.
“While you can never be certain about the efficacy of Taser in a future event, one thing is for certain, members cannot deploy less-than-lethal options they do not have,” the spokesperson said.
McWhirter said Tasers had been available to police units in more than 30 locations across regional Victoria.
“It’s about equipping the organisation over a period of time – it takes a long time to train 10,000 members, so we have to do the stage deployment,” he said.
Police and PSOs had been attending a separate violent incident near Princes Street Bridge on Friday night when the man approached them and allegedly began making threats.
McWhirter, director of Victoria Police’s Transit and Public Safety Command, said the PSOs were concerned about his behaviour and asked him to show his hands.
“When they did that, he produced a broken bottle and made threats towards one of the PSO members in particular,” he said.
The officers used pepper spray on the man, but he allegedly continued to pursue and threaten one of the PSOs.
“It was at that point in time that another PSO saw what was happening … produced his firearm and shot two shots of the person, one striking him in the abdomen.”
The Pakenham man was detained before being treated by Ambulance Victoria paramedics, who were already at the scene due to the earlier incident. He was due to undergo surgery on Saturday and has not been charged.
The shooting will be investigated by Crime Commission investigators and overseen by the professional standards committee.
In the earlier incident, a man allegedly attacked four people with a glass bottle after a reported botched handbag robbery on a tram.
“He’s subsequently got off the tram, started walking north along St Kilda Road, where he pulled out a bottle and struck a person several times into the face,” McWhirter alleged on Saturday.
A witness who chased after the man to identify him as an offender was also allegedly glassed.
The 27-year-old South Melbourne man allegedly attacked at least one more person before he was arrested at the scene and charged with four counts of recklessly causing injury.
The victims, a 67-year-old man and three women aged between 34 and 56, were taken to hospital in a stable condition and at least two have since been discharged.