Confession Of Police Impotence
"I've been a cop for 17 years — and I'm afraid" The Sunday Mail 18/12/2005
From "Law A Mockery" by P Atkinson

This open, anonymous, letter was distributed to locals in Cronulla this week.

I am a New South Wales police officer with 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 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, two burly 190cm 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 — 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. The 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 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. 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, assaulting police, resisting arrest and put them before the court.

A local magistrate is presiding over the matter. After 30 minutes the charges are dismissed and recommendations made that the police should be charged with assault. 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.

The thug has got off the charges, winks his eye and smiles at me as he walks out of court. 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... but it just doesn't happen.

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 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.