This open letter, from an anonymous police officer, was being distributed to locals in Cronulla yesterday
I am a NSW police officer with more than 17 years' experience and I tell you that I am scared. I am scared to do my job and I don't blame the community for taking the law into their own hands.
In the late '80s when I first joined the police force, I saw how the old school police did things. I agree there was corruption and things had to change, but what the Government, judicial system and ultimately society did to the police force was just disgraceful. In days gone by, if there was a group of hoodlums hanging around intimidating people outside a pub, two 6'2" burly coppers would turn up in a big F100 truck. The way they spoke, their stature, respect and how they dealt with these hoodlums gave them real power and not some weak piece of legislation given to them by some reactionary Government. If these hoodlums hadn't already run off because they knew what was coming, they would cop a flogging, a kick up the bum, a slap over the head. The young kids were afraid of the police and that's how we controlled and protected the community. Fear is the only thing a young male understands. That real power is now lost forever.
Let's look at how the new police force would handle the same job. Firstly, we changed our name to a "service" because it was aggressive to use the word "force". We send two small female officers, wearing silly little yellow caps. If we want to move these thugs out of the area, we have a very strict procedure we must follow. We have to announce our name and place of duty. The thug laughs and starts calling us by our first name. We have to tell them why they have to move on. We have to warn them that if they fail to move on, they may be arrested. If there is more than one thug, we have to do this to each one.
They tell us they don't speak English, start stating their rights and call their friends by mobile phone to come to the location. The process we have just started doesn't work with a drunk who wants to argue - it just makes it more confusing. We have to make detailed notes of the conversation and caution them not to say or do anything in case it incriminates them. Each time we use a power, we have to tell the hoodlum what it is and why we are doing it. From the very outset, they have the upper hand and it continues. They have the real power ... we have pretend power. If we do decide to arrest them, we have to be so careful not to grab their arms too hard or wrestle them to the ground because it may graze their legs or rip their jeans. The thugs will allege we damaged their phones, took $50 from their wallets, swore at them, put the handcuffs on too tight.
When they get back to the police station, they complain to a supervisor who now starts to investigate us. The whole charging process takes hours in a run-down police station with computers that don't work. So we charge them with offensive language, assault police, resist arrest and put them before the court. A local magistrate is presiding over the matter. After 30 minutes in court, the charges are dismissed and the recommendations made that the police should be charged with assault and sent to jail for six months. We are told we should expect to be sworn at, called a pig and stood over by thugs.
The complaint and civil action lingers on for 18 months as it goes from the Ombudsman to ICAC and PIC. The thug has got off the charges, winks his eye and smiles at me as he walks out of court. That's the justice that we have that goes on every day in many local courts in NSW. Can you see why I am scared? Do you think I am going to arrest someone, come next Friday or Saturday night, with all that rubbish going on?
I am going to take my time getting to the job, hope the thugs leave before I arrive and stand there and take the abuse. I hear my commanders saying we will uphold the law to the letter. Easy for them to say, but it just doesn't happen. If we were fair dinkum, we would have hundreds of arrests and charges every day.
Have a look at the promotion system. Junior police being promoted in front of other senior police with 20 years' experience, because they can answer a question in an interview better. Everyone is looking after themselves. We are no longer a team versus the thugs. It is me alone versus police management versus the thugs. You have seen the quality of our senior police leaders. They wouldn't last long in private enterprise.
After the stuff-ups of the Redfern riot - an absolute disgrace in operational policing - we heard senior police say "we will learn from this". Not a year later, Macquarie Fields. The same mistakes and stuff-ups. Listen to the commissioner as he talks. It is all reactionary policing.
Why didn't Intel pick this up earlier? Why weren't measures put in place earlier? Because the problems have been going on for years. The police out there have poor morale, equipment and training. We aren't united as a team - everyone has their own agenda and we are scared. We have the weak, ambiguous powers the Government says we have to have and a judicial system that just defies logic. I totally understand why young men feel they have to take the law into their own hands. I don't trust, and have very little loyalty in, the police service and the court system.
Comments? Email John Ray