WA Police Bicycle Unit Interview
This is the story of Joe and Phil, two hard working police officers, employed by the Western Australian police force, who took some time to explain what their duties involve and their thoughts on the community they serve.
VKI: VKI to any vehicle for a 378 in Forrest Chase.
Beats: Golf Delta 810
VKI: Roger GD 810. I have a 378 in Forrest Chase. Two males arguing, swearing etcetera.
Beats: Roger VKI ETA (Estimated Time Arrival) about 3 minutes.
VKI: The complainant is Sam – Manager at McDonalds.
3 minutes later:
Beats: GD 810 & 812 off at your job.
VKI: Roger thanks – Can you give me a Sit Rep? (Situation Report)
Beats: Yeah, no problems here. We’ll just have a chat with these guys and move them on.
VKI: Roger thanks.
(Printout of a walkie talkie communication)
As part of the bicycle patrol section of the police force working in the inner city of Perth, Joe and Phil provide general assistance to the public but also perform some duties such as pursuing people where vehicles cannot reach and even arresting shoplifters.
They joined the police force because they enjoy the variety of duties, the work with different people and the career opportunities within the police department. Joe says, ‘I had nothing else to do. My brother was a cop and I played cricket with the cops’. He has been in the police force for 20 years and is currently a Senior Constable. As for Phil, he joined the force three years ago and holds the position of a Constable. ‘One of the best personal satisfaction in the job, is a happy complainant. If you help someone out and they’re happy with what’s been done, it’s worth it.’
Joe and Phil feel that there are skills that can help a police officer in the force: good communications and listening skills and positive body language. Family upbringing plays an important role in the development of certain qualities such as fairness, which may not be learnt though the academy.
There are not that many streetkids in Perth, according to both officers. In a lot of cases, it’s a choice but sometimes, it is their best alternative.
There are specialist squads who deal with prostitution, therefore Joe and Phil don’t have much to do with it. Prostitution is very much a way of life – sometimes it is done to support a habit or a child. They believe that whether it is right or wrong, it will probably be there forever.
Although drug use on the city streets is not very visible, apart from a bit of sniffing, there are drug users just about everywhere you go. For some, drugs ease the pain they are trying to hide. Phil believes that drug addicts don’t realise how much their choices impact on others. It affects their families who suffer as much as them, if not more and also the extended network, including health and ambulance workers.
Phil says, ‘A lot of people are victims for what they do, so there is no sympathy there’. There is a lot of support available, mainly funded by the government. People need to ask for help although, sometimes, you need to be charged (with an offence) before you can access it.
People living on the street don’t usually get moved on without a reason. They may have created a disturbance and the police have received one or two complaints. Their behaviour is affecting other people who have a right to be in the city without being hassled. ‘We do not discriminate them at all’ says Joe. ‘But the City of Perth are sometimes a lot harder on them’.
In the last ten years, things haven’t changed too much. One of the main things that has, is the increasing lack of respect for people with authority like police officers, parents and teachers.
Peer pressure hasn’t managed to affect the two young Officers when they were younger, or even to date. Joe believes you’ve only got yourself to blame. All over the world, it is too easy to point your finger at peer pressure, when really, it is yourself to blame. It is not a real reason.
People just want to fit in. Young people need more role models, particularly someone who is in the limelight all the time like a sports star or an actor – anybody in the public eye. The best role models are the ones at home – for a lot of people, home is where the biggest influence is. But sometimes, no matter how well you bring up your kids, they may still be a target for peer pressure. Ways of avoiding the temptation of peer pressure, may include; education, keeping active, different interests and participating in sports and clubs.
One of the main crimes they see committed, is shoplifting, although surprisingly, there are not many crimes committed in the area. Boredom and social statuses play an important part in the reasons why this happens. Some cases, people steal out of need, which is not as often as most other reasons. It is usually out of stupidity. ‘I’ve spoken to many kids who have shoplifted. They realise they’re stupid but I told them what they did was stupid’, Joe says. But when it comes to peer pressure, sometimes they’re dragged along with a friend who shoplifts, so they’ve decide to shoplift themselves.
One of the saddest things on the streets, are the parents. Some children are running wild in the early hours of the morning when parents need to have more of an accountability for them. It all starts at home and if home isn’t an all right place, then young people come out to the streets where the trouble is. There is no comfort on the streets.
If the media sees a few young people with their caps on backwards, they usually identify them as a gang, when really, they are just a group of people hanging out. They could be as harmless as anyone else - talking about the footy or something local. A lot of people percept that young people like these, are up to no good. But it is different if you saw 12 to 13 years old hanging around Northbridge at one am in the morning. You would be asking yourself ‘Why?’.
When police chase up the parents, some of them are off their face sniffing paint and forget all responsibilities for themselves and their children. In other cases, they just don’t give a damn. What hope has the child got now?
There are alternatives to detention instead of continuously locking young people up when sometimes, it doesn’t solve anything. They just have a lot of time to think. ‘There’s nothing really positive about it but I’ve never been there’ Joe says. ‘It doesn’t really deter young people from committing crimes when they come out because they just get locked up with other offenders who influence them. They need consequences. Obviously you can’t wipe out detention as there are no real suitable alternatives right now’.
They need more interesting work schemes, even if they get paid for it. If they can come out with some real working skills, they may find life a lot easier, even if it is being shown how to make the right choices and input into their own future.
A consultation with the victim can make a big difference and it doesn’t have to involve the police. On a few occasions, there have been children that have committed crimes who are sorry and only too happy to repay their victim. Before they meet up, both the victim and the offender might be a little frightened but in the end, the best way to deal with it, is to face up to each other. It usually works out right. If the victim doesn’t want or can’t be repaid with money, the offender might do a week of weeding or house duties for them.
People need to be aware of what they are doing. Opportunity can lead to a crime. If someone leaves a phone on a table or a window down in their car, they could be a victim and criminals will take advantage of anything they can. People need to be responsible for their property and themselves. We will never live in a perfect world but we can decrease the opportunities we are giving to people who will take them, in the sense of a crime.
So how can crime be reduced? There are many things that will help but it usually comes down to a matter of the financial aspects. It would be good to have a youth worker to every streetkid or a cop to every person but it will never happen. There isn’t enough money around and it would be a waste of resources. Another idea Phil believes ‘People should do up their helmet!’ he says, looking at me.
There are reasons for everything and sometimes, the way Perth is, will be like that forever. Things can’t always change and sometimes it is for the good. As for the police, they are there to set things straight and to help people when possible. People who commit crimes need to face the consequences but the police are not the enemy. When some officers put on a uniform, they think they're a power above everyone else, which gives the police force a bad name when it is really only a small minority of police that act this way. For Joe and Phil, it is their choice of employment and their dedication to their duties representing the force, may oneday be recognised.