Australia's National Prison Newspaper

Australia's National
Prison Newspaper

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About Time is the national newspaper for Australian prisons and detention facilities

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ISSUE NO. 1

JULY 2024

EDITIONS

JULY 2024

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ISSUE NO. 1

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Experiences

Ethics in the Line of Duty

Anonymous

The writer worked as a police officer in Victoria for almost two years. They have since left and now work in the private sector.

Paul Alain Hunt

Recently, I left my job as a police officer. When people asked why I left the police force, I said it was because my values misaligned with the job. And yet my certificate of service hangs in a frame on my wall. The irony is not lost on me.

 

Before I thought about a career in policing, I wanted to be a journalist. I had a natural curiosity, a tenacity to chase every lead, and a predisposition for advocacy. I felt like good journalism held people in power to account, and I’ve never been someone who can stay quiet about things that trouble me. Somewhere along the way, I pivoted towards policing.

I’d read about the systemic issues that were supposedly rife in Australia’s law enforcement – from the way police interacted with the public, to its culture around mental health. However, perhaps because of my own privilege in only having had productive interactions with police, I believed in the power of the justice system to make communities safer places.

Over two years, I discovered aspects of policing that I loved: compiling information to tell a narrative; interviewing people and the satisfaction of that ‘gotcha!’ moment; meeting people from all walks of life. I found immense professional satisfaction when our work protected vulnerable people.

On the flipside, there were parts that I hated. From systemic racism to sexism to apathy, I felt as though I was complicit in a system that was failing the very people it is supposed to protect. I watched as some colleagues used their badge as a free pass to berate others and listened to them talk about how they hoped they’d get to use their taser that day.

 

Most of my colleagues upheld the values they’d sworn to protect. But when police mistreat or denigrate people, it demeans all of us – even when it is not the majority – and it compromises the safety of our communities.

I recall a particularly long shift. I’d been at work for about 16 hours and had just interviewed a young, white woman alleged to be in possession of a large quantity of illicit drugs.

 

As I filled out her bail paperwork, my offsider turned to me and said: ‘Wouldn’t that have gone differently if we were dealing with a Colombian or Middle Eastern dude rather than some white chick?’

 

I knew exactly what he meant. And I daresay you do, too.

 

My decision to leave happened incrementally, as the cumulative effect of jobs made me reflect on whether policing was for me.

 

In 2023, I attended a warrant at an elderly man’s home. Upon entering, I remember the immediate stench of faeces assaulting every sense and seeing a frail, confused man standing before me.

 

Black mould covered the walls and a squalid, stained campervan mattress lay in the middle of the room, sitting atop hundreds of newspapers. It was like standing in a human-sized rabbit cage. On the bathroom sink, I observed a bar of soap next to a plastic bottle half-filled with murky water. I’d later come to find out he’d supposedly not showered in ten years.

 

I thought he needed support and adequate housing, rather than to face criminal charges. Over the subsequent days, I tried to connect him with help while simultaneously preparing a brief of evidence against him. Nothing eventuated from my calls.

 

Months later, on returning to his residence to serve his summons, I found out that he had died alone, his body decomposed. It angered me then, and it angers me still.

 

I’m not sure why it was then that I resolved to leave, but when I arrived home, I applied for a new job.

 

Although I was sure of my decision, the act of leaving was fraught with its own challenges. Policing was my community – and to a large degree, still is. Stepping away felt like a betrayal of my professional identity as well as the institution itself, parts of which I truly cared about.

The struggle to reconcile personal values with professional duties is difficult, but it’s also not unique to policing. Many of us encounter moments where our principles clash with the things we’re doing.

My certificate of service still hangs in my home, as testament to the good I tried to achieve within the confines of a flawed system. For me, it reflects a desire to honour the sense of duty that drew me to policing while rejecting the aspects that conflicted with my moral compass.

 

In changing paths, I hope I can help people in ways that are more aligned for me, and which provide meaningful support to people who need it.

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Willy Pleasance

What to do with a ‘brick’ up my sleeve – my prison journey

By Daniel Vansetten

As the months went by, I started to think about what could be done in that time. I started to see time in a different light. Rather than dwell on being in prison, I accepted my position and saw time in prison as an opportunity to apply myself to something without the usual distractions of the ‘free world’. For the first time in my life, I felt unburdened by time. I had a ‘brick’ up my sleeve and just had to work out what to do with it.