Recently I was privileged to be invited to participate in a Community Awareness of Policing Program (CAPP) where “Community leaders walk in police shoes” – literally! Well, almost!
From the evening of 22nd October to the afternoon of 24th October 2015 I joined 23 other unsuspecting participants, whom I had (mostly) never met before, for a weekend of challenges and experiences that have given me an even greater appreciation for the men and women who make up our NSW Police Force.
After being delivered, warmly welcomed, given a tour of the facility and settled into our accommodations at the PLC (aka Police Leadership Centre) we ventured to dinner and the inevitable “get to know you” first meeting.
Day one saw us breakfasting at 6 am in readiness for the start of our first 12 hour ‘shift’ with visits to:
- PORS (the Public Order and Riot Squad) – if you happen to be protesting somewhere and you see the water cannon approaching, my advice would be to run like hell!
- MAC (Marine Area Command) where we scribbled details of a ‘crime’ we witnessed in our little blue notebooks, negotiated a successful conclusion to an attempted suicide, participated in a search and rescue scenario involving an upturned yacht and missing crew and watched in amazement as the k-9 crew sniffed out the feral nun trying to smuggle drugs!
All before dinner and a presentation by Detective Chief Inspector Gary Jubelin of Strike Force Tuno that provided some interesting insights and follow up on one of the state’s biggest criminal investigations into the murder of Terry Falconer.
The coffee machine was working overtime by 6:10 am on day two before we set off on our own Police Academy adventure in Goulburn. After being kitted out with our gun belts (try getting in and out of a police car whilst wearing this little fashion statement!) and calling in a mock police pursuit we tested out the skid pan to see what not to do in a tricky situation. I have to confess (sir) I owe the NSW Police about 5 new witch’s hats …
Next to the TOU or Tactical Operations Unit (for the uninitiated) where we donned some ear and eye protection (PPE) to witness an amazing display of skill, including being rescued from a (mock) hostage situation.
To add to our heightened levels of excitement we then visited the SPAC (Simulated Patrol Assessment Centre) to evict an intoxicated patron and the Virtra Facility for some weapons training, including discussions on all the equipment a police officer has at his/her disposal and the split-second decisions that sometimes have to be made about which one to use. After a Taser display and some dodgy decisions in the entry and search scenarios we were able to watch the Police Academy’s version of Saturday afternoon sport – a mock riot through the grounds!
Dinner that night included presentation of certificates by the Commissioner of Police, Andrew Scipione APM and the opportunity to wind down a little, for those who were still awake!
On Sunday we were allowed a sleep-in with breakfast scheduled for 6:30 am – woohoo! And what else does one do on a sunny Sunday during a CAPP weekend … hang out with the experts at the FSG (Forensic Services Group) of course! After dressing appropriately we received tuition from the real “CSI’s” on the latest in scientific techniques used to discover the how, what and who of a crime scene and visited the ballistics guys for a live demo, spot the fake gun test, a look at the technology available for matching weapons/ammunition to other crimes and a teeny glimpse at the mind boggling array of weaponry confiscated/seized/handed in over time.
Are you worn out? Well wake up because we haven’t finished yet!
A discussion about initiatives within the force to equip officers with the skills necessary to cope with the marked increase in call-outs involving people with mental health issues. Alarmingly many of these as a result of drug use – USE, as well as ABUSE.
VKG is where we found the cool, calm and collected people who will speak quietly and efficiently to you in an emergency, whilst coordinating the many facets of a response; what an eye-opener that was!
The POC (Police Operations Centre) gave us an idea of how major operations and events are dealt with and by whom.
Finally; remember on the first day we had to record what we saw during a mock crime? Well some of our Sunday afternoon was spent watching two of our cohort being “grilled” on the witness stand in relation to the events two days prior. We all agreed that remembering the detail was difficult enough after two days, let alone some months, which is often the case in real life.
Now, whilst I have used a lot of words making light of our experiences, I cannot find enough words to explain just how inspiring, enlightening, encouraging and humbling the whole weekend was.
At every session we were greeted and briefed by the operational and specialist police leading their respective units and given the opportunity to speak to individual members of each team, ask questions, inspect the equipment they use and even try some on. What we found, repeatedly, was passion, commitment and dedication. People who actually enjoy going to work and with an attrition rate of just 3% leaving the force, it was clearly not just a ‘show’ for us over the three days nor was it a product of our overworked imaginations.
Was it tiring? Yes, but as Deputy Commissioner Burn kept reminding me, 12 hour shifts are the norm for our protectors in the “double blues”.
One more acronym before I let you go – a LAC is your Local Area Command.
Did you know some LAC’s host their own (one shift) CAPP?