We police are damned no matter what we do
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We police are damned no matter what we do

The way I see it, we police are essentially the clean-up crew for society's ills and failings. In reality, though, we've very much become society's scapegoats.

Police at the scene of the brawl and car accident in Collingwood.

Police at the scene of the brawl and car accident in Collingwood.Credit:Luis Enrique Ascui

Right now we're getting smashed from right-wing politicians and conservative shock-jocks for being too soft and not doing enough, while simultaneously we get attacked from left-wing social movements and community legal centres for apparently being too hard and assertive. Both sides, of course, enjoy a significant amount of support from a divided community.

This is particularly soul destroying for us police who are fighting long and hard, in good faith, to battle the results of societal ills no one is prepared to take responsibility for.

The two greatest challenges faced by society today are family violence and mental health, both of which we police shoulder an unparalleled amount of responsibility and blame for.

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The current narrative around family violence places the responsibility and blame on police. Three-quarters of the recommendations that came out of the royal commission were levelled at us. Never mind the fact that the only real way to eliminate family violence is the widespread education of children at a formative age so as to normalise respectful relationships built around women's rights and equality. That would require forward thinking and emotional intelligence.

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In the area of mental health, police get crucified for not preventing violent offences, or criticised for not being trained in speaking to and managing people experiencing psychiatric crisis. Apparently it's irrelevant that our mental health system is devastatingly under-resourced and lacking in adequate mechanisms to treat at-need patients.

Don't get me wrong, I get it. It's far easier to lay blame than it is to take it, and we at Victoria Police are an easy target. From the outside looking in, we appear to be a nameless, faceless and homogenous organisation. For this reason, we're easy to dehumanise and generate outrage against. Added bonus: it fits in well with the popular anti-police culture seeping into Australia from the US.

Then there's the over-hyped African gang problem. One side says there is a massive issue at hand, and that our community is in dire risk of moral and ethical destruction. The other side says there is no problem, and anyone who says otherwise is racist. And then there's us, the police, trying to approach the problem in a fair and balanced way, while being stuck between warring social narratives and agendas. It's only getting worse now that we're on the eve of a particularly heated state election centred on a law-and-order debate.

In Collingwood on the weekend, Fitzroy Legal Aid "observers" attended an event - a concert that erupted into a brawl - specifically to detect racial profiling and excessive use of force, be it real or perceived. Interesting that they're now the only ones who aren't criticising police handling of the event.

If we had gone in and made arrests with the numbers and force it would have required to subdue such a large number of violent and drunken men, right now we'd be facing criticism and legal action from the left, with calls for organisational payouts and individual members to be stood down and charged criminally.

One could almost be forgiven for thinking we're damned no matter what we do.

I really do believe in the importance of what my colleagues and I are doing. I personally am working in a family violence unit, and am passionate about helping victims of trauma and abuse. It's just so hard to do when so many people have committed themselves to despising us for our efforts. I think about quitting every day.

Written by a police officer who asked that their name be withheld.