Police across the country have been warned to remain on guard following fresh intelligence they are likely to be targeted by terrorists, and growing concerns over the increasing influence of jihadist groups.
Officers in some states will be permitted to take weapons and body armour home, while others are being urged to not display their uniforms in the open while travelling to and from work.
And NSW police have been told to carry their weapons at all times when they are in uniform.
The Australian Federal Police said the terror alert level for police had been raised to “high” in the wake of extremist attacks in France, Canada and Australia.
It also comes after an Islamist cell’s plot targeting police in Belgium was foiled last week.
The threat level for police is now in line the national alert level which was raised to high in September last year, indicating an attack is likely, although not imminent.
The AFP said the order had been prompted by intelligence and an “increasingly complex and challenging” security environment.
“Recent events in France, Canada and Australia serve as a sobering reminder of the risks associated with policing,” the AFP said.
The raising of the threat level was also prompted by the increasing influence in Australia of extremist groups such as Islamic State.
“While relatively small, there are increasing numbers of Australians who are connected with or inspired by overseas terrorist groups such as ISIL, with the intent and capability to conduct an attack against police,” the AFP said.
Authorities have so far cancelled the passports of about 80 Australians suspected of planning to commit a terrorist act or engage in politically motivated violence overseas.
Terrorism expert Clive Williams said raising the threat level for police was a reasonable precaution but he was surprised it had taken this long.
“Islamic State has been calling for its people to attack police,” Professor Williams said.
“So, it rather surprises me that they haven’t done this before now.”
Two police officers were killed earlier this month during the attack in Paris against satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
The development also comes after the Sydney siege, and the wounding of two Victorian police in September last year by Abdul Numan Haider at a police station in Melbourne.
Haider – who was fatally shot – had been under investigation by anti-terrorism officers.
A soldier was also targeted last year in Canada.
There are no specific threats against Australian police.
But Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said he would be sympathetic to applications for officers to take weapons and body armour home.
NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn said a warning had been issued to all police to remain vigilant at all times, whether on duty or off duty.
An edict was also issued on Tuesday requiring NSW police to use mobile data terminals that provide real-time tracking of their whereabouts while on duty.
WA acting police commissioner Stephen Brown said officers in his state were being urged to take measures such as laying down their uniforms on the back seats of their cars when driving to and from work to avoid them being seen.
“There is a percolating up across the world and including Australia, right across the country, of the threat specifically with regards to the policing sector,” he said.
The heightened threat level coincides with the rollout of new protective equipment for front-line officers in Tasmania, including stab-resistant and bullet-proof vests.