Thursday, 15 August 2013

Post#203 Policing in Western Australia - A Pom's-eye View (Officer 'A' - The Crime Factory)

I recently read The Crime Factory, a memoir by an English police officer who, among other tribulations, succumbed to the lure of the Great South Land. In 2007, the Western Australian government decided to take a short cut in recruiting police by seeking 400 trained officers from the United Kingdom. The author, who uses the nom-de-plume "Officer A", was unhappy with his situation in the Surrey constabulary and saw the greener grass.

Here is a quote from Officer A's interview with the delegation sent to the UK to rope in these suckers:

"I do have a few questions, as it goes. How will Australian police officers react to UK officers coming in to work on their patch? If the situation was reversed, I think there might be some resentment from some UK officers." [Officer A said]

"There will be no problem," Fordham said. "Western Australia is a multicultural place with people and police from many different backgrounds. We need more cops. They will just be happy to see a new face."

When I read those words I could see that the author was laying the ground for a rude shock for the reader. The next chapter which deals with his experiences in WA is called "Welcome to Hell". He describes policing in WA as being like Britain in the 1970's without the bon homie. The first incident he describes is him holding a drugged-up, knife-wielding thug at bay.  This lasts twenty minutes until back-up arrive and, after Tasering the thug, the responding officers ask him, "Why didn't you shoot the cunt?" (That's "Welcome to WA!", Pom.)

I noted two things from the progress of Officer A, beginning with his British experiences. Most notable was his relentless pouring of alcoholic beverage down his neck. This won't make you unpopular in any British or Australian police community. It's also like a lot of other group behaviours; an arena in which no mercy is shown to those who can't master the beast. The heavy-drinking culture is an obstacle course in which a person who starts to lose their edge is pounced on and pulled down by the other contenders. The very person who urges you over to the pub will be snugged up in the office later as you finish the session...telling the boys what a toss-pot you are and how you're losing your grip. Officer A reckons he had a nervous breakdown after returning to the UK but I detect the foundations of it and its incipience well before that in his story. He doesn't recognise the beginnings of his troubles because complete abstinence from alcohol is beyond his imagination as a lifestyle for himself. The journey to WA is a classic example of a last resort by someone whose circumstances are becoming intolerable.

He is surprised by the rather cold welcome from the senior officer who tells assembled British recruits to not push "new ideas". The attitude displayed doesn't seem like happiness to see new faces. Subsequently, as a former detective, he finds patrol work unsatisfying and takes an opportunity to join a task force set up by another imported UK officer. Using his status as a fellow Pom and former detective he wangles a spot on the team. This behaviour is calculated to make you unpopular. It's called being pushy, jumping the queue, having tickets on yourself, not paying your dues first and anything else you can think of that covers the concept. He then makes a series of amazing gaffes in his relations with his colleagues. The worst arises from a raid on the clubhouse of a motorcycle gang. A couple of the cops on the operation souvenir a sign from above the bar in the clubhouse. Officer A decides to report them to the management. This is a very foolish move. This is dobbing. Of course, the Powers That Be ignore him. Then the mad bastard leaks the matter to the media to force them to do something. This really is the end of his career in the WA Police. I can't understand why he ever thought he could inform and continue. He subsequently is harassed by Australian cops who've obviously taken a venomous dislike to him. He fears that a prowler on his property is an agent of the police, that the police are bugging his house. Someone calls his wife and asks to speak to a well-known Australian criminal who has fallen into disgrace for being an informant. Officer A doesn't help his own cause; not that it was amenable to help by now. In one instance he flashes his backside at a "sundowner" drinking session and this incident and the following exchange of insults with other cops present haunts him all the way back to his return to Britain. What might have been covered up for a mate is made into a major issue in his case; the personnel reports on him from WA are damning. The WA police do everything they can to wreck his reputation. What is most peculiar is that he never seems to get it. He wouldn't have dobbed in the UK, so why did he think he could do it in WA? He really should have taken notuice of the warning to fit in and not try to reform the place.

Western Australia has a well-earned reputation as "The Police State", which many people feel should be our licence-plate slogan rather than the original "State of Excitement" (1970's, copying Oregon), the execrable "Home of the America's Cup" (1980's, all our own work, unfortunately), or the current "The Golden State" (copying California). The police have played a significant role in the politics and social life of the state without going out of their way to draw attention to the fact. You find out about it when you touch a tripwire, such as the relationship between police and the criminal community.

The WA police have contained within their ranks some of the most courageous, decent and determined law officers that anyone could imagine. They've also played host to thugs, bullies and criminals as bad as the worst on the other side of the blue line. Keeping the evil element in check is hard work and a constant battle. Corruption, like rust, never sleeps. If anyone was going to sort this out it wasn't going to be a blow-in with a boozing problem and a lack of social insight.