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Australia Arms its Customs officers

Arming of front-line Customs officers

In a major boost to border security the Australian Government will arm additional frontline Customs officers, the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison announced today.

These are the first Customs officers to be armed other than those involved in marine patrols.

Senator Ellison said the changing environment in which Customs investigated border related crimes required the measure to bolster security at Australia’s borders.

“Customs officers carry out border security functions at wharves and remote locations, execute search warrants and board and search vessels in an increasingly hostile environment,” Senator Ellison said.

The use of firearms is governed by the direction of the Customs CEO under the Customs Act. This is consistent with principles that govern the use of force by the Australian Federal Police.

“The Australian Customs Service is more than ever charged with the task of securing our borders from the threat of terrorism and transnational crime,” Senator Ellison said.

Suitably trained officers will be issued with Glock handguns, personal body armour, batons, capsicum spray, and handcuffs. The first deployment of officers will be in Melbourne to assist with the preparation of security for the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

Senator Ellison said initially around 80 additional officers in front-line Customs roles would be armed.

Customs officers who investigate the import and export of prohibited goods including weapons and non-narcotic drugs will now be armed as well as officers involved in waterfront patrols and the boarding of international vessels when they arrive in Australia.

Customs already has almost 300 armed officers engaged in maritime patrol and response functions as part of the National Marine Unit (NMU) and Southern Ocean Maritime Patrol and Response Unit (SOMPRU).

“Customs officers must be equipped to handle whatever situations arise during normal operations and when illegal activities are detected,” Senator Ellison said.

The training and certification process will be comprehensive and exhaustive. Training will be provided to the same standard as that undertaken by the Australian Federal Police. Customs NMU and SOMPRU officers currently receive this level of training.

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