It is a truth universally acknowledged that Police Officers often deal with the very worst, and very best that society has to offer.
Police see the harrowing, humorous and downright offensive, and as a former serving New South Wales Police Officer of ten years, I understand this first hand. I have seen things that I would not have imagined could have existed, or been done to other people.
I have seen bodies burnt in smouldering vehicles, smelt the distinctive smell of their burning flesh; I have seen children beaten to death; vicious assaults and the body parts of car accident victims strewn across the roadway.
I have stood in the hallway of a premises with a drug affected male screaming and yelling while waving a knife; his young children and wife watching in horror from the lounge room. I have stood in the hallway with other Officers, my service firearm pointed as he came towards us with that knife.
I have felt death licking at my heels on numerous occasions, my heart beating so fast I thought it would jump from my flesh.
But one of the hardest things to see is the death of a fellow Police Officer; whether you actually served with them or not – they become your family.
When I heard the news of Sergeant Geoffrey Richardson losing his life while on duty, responding to the calls of a pursuit in the Hunter – my heart pounded heavily in my chest. I never met Sergeant Richardson; having only now seen photos through social media outlets, and read that he has a family and young children.
A few weeks ago I didn’t know him.
But I will think of his family, his friends, his extended policing family over the coming weeks.
Sergeant Richardson lost his life on duty.
I remember when another serving officer lost his life not too long ago.
Constable William “Bill” Crews was unintentionally shot by a colleague in September 2010. Constable Crews was a member of the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad, a 26 year old detective committed to his job.
Constable Crews was shot by his colleague after returning fire from a drug dealer in an underground apartment block in the Bankstown area.
Although I never met “Bill” Crews, I worked with other members of his family; and worked for seven years at the Bankstown Local Area Command. I felt his loss as if I had known him, and grieved for his family. I can’t even imagine what the officer who unintentionally shot him went through (and was never in any form held liable for this – it was a cruel twist of fate).
I can’t imagine the Police devastated and shocked, as a brother blue lay shot before them.
For me, after serving as an Officer, death does become “different”. I know that when I joined the service as a bright eyed, bushy-tailed, naïve, young officer I was horrified at the things I saw; mortified, heart broken, and I’m not saying that you become immune to that – but after seeing so much death, and loss and grief – you do change.
When a fellow brother in blue loses his life, you remember what it was to be a little more human and humane.
You remember that you joined the noble profession in the pursuit of seeking justice and truth, keeping the general piece and honour.
And any serving Officer knows that there is a risk of the loss of life when you “sign up” for the job.
One of the hardest things to come to terms with when a Police Officer loses their life is the “why”. Yes, policing is a paid profession, but Police are often the ones that run into burning buildings when everyone else is running out of them. It really is more than just a “job”.
Society needs Police.
For all those that nay say the Police, the PO’s are the ones that are called when you have property stolen, your relative is missing, your car has been broken into; or you are arguing with a spouse.
So, when these people that you call for assistance become those that are killed while serving the community, it really does make you question the values we hold collectively as a society.
When a man or woman in blue falls, a little piece of our community collectiveness falls too.
*Jennie Wilson is an Australian Writer, NGO professional and former Police Officer.
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