Security guards hired to protect Ten Network’s reporters and cameramen covering crime scenes have repeatedly asked New South Wales law enforcement for permission to wear body armour. Their argument is that journalism is “getting more dangerous every day” due to the increased risks posed by terrorism.
Security company, TCB Security Professionals already had its application to buy ballistics vest, which are currently prohibited because they are listed on the Firearms Registry, denied by the NSW Police Force last May. They went ahead and appealed that decision. Their appeal was heard yesterday at the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal, and that too was rejected.
Nigel Walters, CEO of TCB Security Professionals, argued before the tribunal that his security guards were putting themselves at “serious risk of injury and even death when protecting reporters during news broadcasts involving suspected terrorists or criminals who could have firearms or other types of dangerous weapons in their possession.”
Mr. Walters described how his guards are regularly on the “frontlines” of events like the shooting of Curtis Cheng in 2015, a Sydney police accountant who was gunned down at Parramatta police headquarters. Unprotected TCB security guards were doing their jobs alongside police officers who were “wearing full body armour with riot gear.”
“The Parramatta situation raised concerns since it seemed clear that crime scenes were becoming more dangerous. There is even more risk in the current environment of getting shot while protecting the press,” Mr. Walters went on to say.
A senior manager with the NSW police Firearms Registry opposed the permit, arguing that it was the responsibility of the police to protect people at crime scenes from being shot or stabbed.
Geoffrey Dennis de Quincey Walker, the officer presiding over the tribunal, stated that he did not think body armour was “needed in the normal course of business.”
The NSW Police Commissioner has only ever granted six permits allowing security firms to obtain ballistic vests: five went to “cash-in-transit” firms, which transport cash and valuables that can be at particular risk of an armed robbery. The other permit went to the company that is responsible for securing the Silverwater Correctional Complex.
Justin Bowden, CEO of Beltin Group, a crisis and risk management company, said that it was unlikely that TCB would ever be granted a permit to wear body armour because “ballistics armour is controlled by the state and considered to be the equivalent of a semiautomatic firearm, in terms of licensing.”
Mr. Walters discussed this with The Australian, saying, “The Ten Network assignment performed by TCB Security is the only assignment for which the company has applied for a body armour permit.”
He claims the company is now out of legal options, however he is going to “try and influence regulators to change the law so that it better meets the needs of the current security environment.”