It was 1973
and I owned and operated a successful motor driving school in Melbourne. I had a
nice suburban home and a beach house at Rye, a popular beach resort. At the age
of 27 I had a wife, two children and was what could loosely be termed as ‘on
the way up.’
there was something missing. I had always looked for something different in
life. I had been a promising boxer, but was talked out of that sport by a
concerned mother. I had ventured to England by ship when I was twenty-one, and
lived for a short time in England.
had always had a hankering to be a police officer, as they were always in the
news and it seemed this would offer a way out of the humdrum existence of normal
cousin was in the Victoria Police Department, and indeed in the Criminal
Investigation Branch. I asked his opinion on joining, but his advice was to
stick with the money that my business offered. I told him that I was going to
join anyhow, as I had had enough of the business life, and was successful. I now
wanted to get some action and excitement into my life.
could see that I was going to go ahead with my plan and advised me not to join
the Victoria Police, but to go federal, as that was where the future would be.
then Commonwealth Police were situated at 43 McKenzie Street, Melbourne, a
nondescript building attached to the side of the Victoria Police Department
Headquarters. A brief history of the Commonwealth Police reveals they were
raised as the Peace Officer Guard by Prime Minister Billy Hughes after he
was assaulted at a political rally in the early 1900s. Hughes had called on the
state police to arrest the perpetrator, but the police refused to arrest the
offender. Hughes then had the Peace Officer Guard raised as an alternative federal
force, though the Guard lacked sufficient powers to be really effective.
Eventually the late Ray Whitrod became Commissioner and moulded the Guard into
the Commonwealth Police, which had teeth in relation to the Commonwealth and
were stationed in all Australian states.
Commonwealth Police Force was loosely designed around some aspects of
America’s FBI and Secret Service in that it would investigate all crime
against the federal government and provide a uniformed police service with the
same powers as state police at all Australian domestic and international
airports, where they would not only act in a police role, but in a security role
as well. They would provide policing at both Christmas Island and Norfolk
police would also be stationed at government establishments like sensitive
military installations as in Pine Gap, and Defence Signals, whose job was to
break and monitor overseas codes and transmissions. They were also stationed at
intelligence organisations, government aircraft and ammunition works, the Prime
Minister’s and Governor-General’s residences, as well as providing security
at a number of overseas Australian Embassies. Plain-clothes officers provided
security for overseas Heads of State, as well as visiting government members and
VIPs. They also provided full-time security for the Prime Minister and
Governor-General of Australia.
knowing any of the above I applied to join the organisation in early 1973. I was
invited to attend and pass a full medical examination, attend and pass an
entrance exam, and then be interviewed by a psychiatrist as well as the initial
interview with the Commonwealth Police recruiting officer. If I passed the
above, I would have to be fully security-vetted and this would take at least two
months, then wait for a vacancy to occur.
passed and one day the buff government envelope arrived.
I held it nervously in my hands for some minutes then ripped it open:
YES, I had passed the vetting and was offered a position as a Constable,
Commonwealth Police, Melbourne. I was absolutely delighted. I sold my business
and reported to Commonwealth Police Headquarters in March of 1973, was
interviewed by an inspector, given a rundown of the organisation and of my
starting instructions issued with the Commonwealth Police Standing Orders and
Regulations, and sworn in.
TWO (part sample)
days later I reported for duty at the Commonwealth Police Headquarters situated
at Victoria Barracks, St Kilda Road, Melbourne. I was interviewed by Senior
Constable George Garland, who spent the better part of the morning explaining my
duties as a Constable and what my job was at Victoria Barracks.
would be carried out on rolling 24-hour, 7-days-a-week basis, and included the
following: perimeter security, door and access gate security, checking of
personnel and their security passes. Patrols after hours were always carried out
carrying a firearm and included checking for intruders, signs of theft or
break-ins, checking of security passes for persons encountered during these
patrols, static security in sensitive areas such as buildings where intelligence
was carried out, the gathering of any documents or paperwork including notes
that were left in offices or desks. These were immediately impounded back at the
station and a security breach ticket left in its place. The perpetrator would be
summoned to the security office the next day to ‘please explain’ if a
document was of a sensitive nature, say highly confidential, secret etc. This
was impounded and the military intelligence officer was called immediately no
matter what the hour, who would then take the document and interview the
Barracks was a huge sprawling mass of buildings, offices, footpaths and roads,
surrounded by a three-metre bluestone fence, and was staffed by hundreds of
civilians and military personnel. It held records and administrative files for
the three Armed Services. Day shift was comprised mainly of a security role of
checking vehicles and access passes for the hundreds of people flowing in and
out of the entrances and exits. It had a cheery aspect as you spoke with people
and were surrounded by constant activity.
time was a different matter. Then the place was dark and empty; it took on the
look of a crouching, brooding monster. Patrols of the miles of empty dingy
corridors and dark grounds were not for the faint-hearted, as you were on your
own and although armed with a gun and a torch, you would see imaginary intruders
and evil-doers everywhere in the dark.
new recruit on his first and last night was patrolling on a darkened verandah
and just as he started walking he heard somebody jump onto the roof not far from
where he was standing. Now this officer was a very nervous character and he
stayed purposely still waiting for the intruder to move. After a period of time
he moved off again and the footsteps on the roof followed. He stopped again, no
footsteps. By this time he was close to losing it so he called out, ‘I know
you’re on the roof! This is the police!’ The footsteps started to run and so
did he in a blind gut-wrenching panic till, reaching the end of the verandah, he
leapt off. Whoever was on the roof leapt too, and landed on the recruit’s
back. By this time he had his gun in his hand, his torch in the other and his
cap over his eyes. The constable screamed, threw his weapon and torch in the air
and bolted for the station where he arrived in a hysterical condition. An armed
police patrol went to the area and with weapons drawn flashed on their torches
to reveal one very scared possum. The recruit was unable to continue his police
duties and subsequently left the job.
it was a funny incident it did underline that, at times, these night patrols
were capable of inducing a mild blind panic in the police officer.
a weapon was carried on these night patrols, initial training was in the use of
handguns and weapons at the range and the law surrounding the use of firearms.
was initially by correspondence with the Australian Police College at Manly in
New South Wales, and covered something in the vicinity of fifteen to sixteen
assignments, which could take you up to a month to complete. The areas covered
were law: criminal, common and statute; evidence: how to collect it and present
it at a Court; powers of arrest; preparation of briefs of evidence; police
duties such as handcuffing and fingerprinting; duties of a Commonwealth police
officer; powers of extradition; and a thorough knowledge of the ‘Red
Herring’. This was a mammoth book, detailing everything a police officer
should know and do to uphold his duties as an officer. Its official title was The
Commonwealth Police Regulations.
was entirely up to the trainee how fast he completed these assignments and
whether he passed or failed, as they were returned from the Australian Police
College with pass marks or red-lined failure with cutting and crippling comments
in the margins.
completion and passing of all assignments the trainee was then sent for a
six-week live-in training course at the Australian Police College, where he went
through an intensive month and a half of training and if successful, graduated
with a certificate and title of Constable, Commonwealth Police Force (U)
was fully determined to do as well as I possibly could. Even with a limited
education, I believed that if you really wanted something you could do it.
was with this belief that I tackled the assignments, passed through them,
successfully completed the course at the college and arrived back in Melbourne
as a Constable.
biggest incentive of the Constable training was to graduate from the Police
College with a score of 75% or more as this could lead to the heady mystical
heights of becoming a Plain-clothes Officer and an Investigating Detective,
providing of course you had the equivalent of the Victorian Leaving Certificate,
and were deemed a good candidate. This in turn would see you return to the
Australian Police College for the exciting and demanding Investigator’s
had left school in the twelfth grade but I used Winston Churchill as a model; he
having had no education rose to be a British Prime Minister.
Australian Police College was situated at Manly in New South Wales and
overlooked some of the most spectacular water scenery in all of Sydney. It
occupied what is known as part of North Head, situated high over the water with
absolutely spectacular and magical views over private waterways and bays.
was made up of many classrooms, with a magnificent library containing all manner
of publications relating to policing law and all ancillary matters, as well as a
comprehensive collection of references and biographical material.
was an excellent dining room with all meals provided, and a recreational bar and
club area with TVs and games rooms attached.
were fortunate to have their own rooms, which afforded personal study at one’s
desk. There was of course a parade area for drills and inspection and an outside
barbeque facility. All in all it was a wonderful training facility, so much so
it was not only used to train Commonwealth police, but also where all officers
of the rank of Inspector or above from all Australian Police Forces would attend
for the Australian Police College’s Officers’ Course.
instructors at the college were all former state police officers with a wealth
of varied policing experience. The Commonwealth Police were fortunate that they
could attract officers from state forces and offer them much higher rank and pay
to bring their expertise over to the Commonwealth and this they did, in droves.
To a man they were all placed in the plain-clothes investigative wing of the
Commonwealth Police, and although they too would complete these investigative
courses, they had a great knowledge to implant into a fledgling police force.
attended the college in late 1973, determined to do well and make it back for
the investigations course. I loved every minute that I was there, the lectures,
the films, the outside visits to courts and police stations and the wonderful
camaraderie of the other thirty-two trainees.
of the lectures were meant as a test of your mental processes. We were attending
a lecture at the Manly Hotel-Motel where they had set up chairs and desks in a
lounge; the lecture was on ‘powers of observation.’ We had been in the class
about three hours and were all feeling a little jaded, when we heard two shots
and a crashing of furniture and through a side door a male sprinted into the
room. He had a rifle and was wearing a balaclava, and he was being hotly pursued
by the manager of the hotel yelling, ‘Stop him! Stop him! He’s robbed the
hotel!’ They both ran through a side door. I really shit myself and so did
most of the class. We were all rooted to the spot with mouths open. However, two
ex-London Police sprinted after them and as they reached the exit, were called
back by the instructor.
instructor then informed us that it was a fake robbery and in fact the whole
incident was an observation test. We had to describe both persons’ height,
weight, colour of hair, age and clothes etc. Most of us failed. All I could
remember were two males running through, one of them armed with a cannon that
had a barrel that looked at least a metre wide.
were shown how to dust and lift fingerprints from articles, and of how to serve
a Summons. We would assemble outside the classroom and the instructor would be
inside with the door locked. The first attempt to serve a Summons was by another
instructor who knocked on the door and announced ‘Police.’ The door
immediately opened and the other instructor said, ‘Oh thank you, officer,
I’ve been expecting this,’ then shut the door.
our instructor said, ‘See how easy it is?’ The first student took the
Summons, knocked on the door and said in a loud voice, ‘Open up, it’s the
police.’ There was no answer, then another ‘Open up, it’s the police.’
Then a loud voice from inside said, ‘Fuck off, prick.’ Of course all the
students were laughing as the poor trainee was looking at the instructor with a
red face with a ‘What do I do now?’ look on his face.
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