Top cop defends arrest of pregnant woman
One of Victoria's highest-ranking police officers has defended the arrest of a pregnant woman over allegedly inciting an illegal protest.
Zoe-Lee Buhler, 28, will face court in January after being charged with incitement over a prohibited gathering due to take place in Ballarat on Saturday.
Ms Buhler went viral on Wednesday, with her husband live streaming her arrest on Facebook as detectives raided their Miners Rest home, west of Melbourne.
The video has so far had more than 1.2 million views online.
Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius told reporters on Thursday morning he had been briefed on the arrest, and he was "absolutely satisfied" the officers acted appropriately.
Mr Cornelius admitted the optics of arresting a pregnant woman were "terrible" and never good, but the woman had since been charged with serious criminal offences.
"I can say to you based on the briefings provided to me … we're absolutely satisfied the members behaved appropriately and in accordance with our policy," he said.
"I've seen the footage. The members have conducted themselves entirely reasonably, they've been polite, professional
"We have to take people as we find them and that doesn't detract from our obligation to hold people to account.
"In this case we're alleging this individual engaged in serious criminal behaviour inciting a public protest at a time when public protest is unlawful. I absolutely support our members in holding selfish people to account."
Mr Cornelius said the decision to handcuff someone was based on a risk assessment, including how an individual presents to police.
"When you execute a search warrant there is a heightened risk," he said.
"When you enter a premises you want to make sure everyone at the place is accounted for and your members are safe."
Mr Cornelius said the handcuffs were removed as soon as the house was secured, and police even contacted the hospital to make an alternative arrangement for Ms Buhler's ultrasound appointment.
He said Ms Buhler was also able to get changed before being taken to a police station for questioning.
Ms Buhler told reporters on Thursday morning she didn't regret planning the illegal protest despite being charged.
She insisted she didn't know she was breaking the law by sharing the Facebook post and that the Ballarat protest was illegal.
"I probably wouldn't change anything to be honest," she said on 3AW radio.
"I'm someone who has a strong opinion, and I'm glad my opinion is getting out there."
Mr Cornelius said he was "outraged" at people planning to protest on Saturday and again urged everyone to stay at home.
He said Victoria Police had arrested and charged four people with incitement so far, including a 78-year-old Windsor man twice.
More than 80 people have also been issued official written warnings after being determined they were at risk of attending protests.
"We'll be ready for you," Mr Cornelius said.
"We're not standing by to wait until you get into the city, we'll be out there in the suburbs, and you can be expect to be held to account.
"Don't be selfish, stay at home, protest online, be the keyboard warrior, but don't leave home to protest."
Mr Cornelius said anyone who left home to protest would be fined and arrested if they failed to comply with police directions.
Those charged with incitement face court-imposed fines of up to $20,000.
Mr Cornelius also backed the RSL's calls not to protest at the Shrine of Remembrance as it was sacred ground and would be "completely inappropriate to engage in political protest activity" there.
"Don't compromise the safety of all Victorians," he pleaded.
"Every time you leave home to protest you're exposing frontline workers, including police.
"Our family members like ourselves are impacted by these restrictions. We share the frustration … but leaving home to protest under the current conditions is absolutely not on.
"The best way to get out of this is to reduce movement across the community."
Originally published as Top cop defends arrest of pregnant woman