By Stan Stewart.
Explanation: I write about the Australian state of Queensland. The figures I refer to were released two weeks ago. By doing this, issues can be discussed without being embroiled in accusations of race-based bias if New Zealand was the focus of my comments.
“A policeman’s lot is not a happy one”.
That line from Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera, the Pirates of Penzance, precedes a description of what policemen actually do. After listing a variety of villains, the chorus goes - “We run them in, we run them in”. That was my boyhood view of what police officers (‘cops’ – ‘fuzz’) actually did. Today they still may do some of this, but for the modern police officer (lots of women as well as men), role is shrinking.
Figures from the Queensland police force noted that ‘Domestic Violence’ occupied more than 50% of the time of the state Police Force. The state recorded a horrific 171,750 domestic violence incidents in the 2022-23 financial year – or about 470.5 a day. Police are being swamped with domestic violence calls for help, with a 30 per cent increase in one year.
Police in Queensland are well-paid and equipped. With a base salary of $92,000, each Officer is equipped with a 42 calibre Glock 22 pistol, the latest tazer with extended range, and wears an overt ballistic and load bearing vest. For what? To call on a residence and to mediate or intervene in family battles, usually, although not always between a man and a woman.
Why is this happening? I am sure the increase in use of mind-altering substances (good old grog is still a main player) is part of the cause. These substances promise a stairway to heaven but in fact they often lead down a path to shrieking hell.
I suspect that many young people who sign up for the ‘Force’ do not anticipate what they will really be doing. How must it feel to be locked and loaded ready for action only to find you are spending much of your time standing between arguing couples?
We lived for some time in a rural location where the use of liquids and substances as coping and/or invigorating aids was an accepted way of life. One of our neighbours on a rural block had a wood burning, hot water system. This appliance billowed smoke night and day. We wondered, ‘Why do they need so many baths?’ Only later did we realise that they were making, using and selling white powder. One evening about 2.00am, the young woman from next door came beating on our door. “He’s going to kill me,” she shouted. We took her in. “Lock all the doors she screamed”. She was famished and wolfed down a large quantity of bacon and eggs. Then her partner appeared on our deck. He walked up and down carrying a large machete. I am no action man, but I am reasonably good at talking. Trying not to show my fear, I went onto the deck and said I would love a cup of tea. He muttered and said that sounded good to him. I got some food from our kitchen, and we walked through the gloom to his house. He put down the machete. Talk about a soothing cup! It worked for both of us. I thanked him for the conversation and took my leave. The woman left after several hours, and that was that. (We had called the police with the arrival of the machete, but they wanted to know when something actually happened, then they would come - they were short on staff and did attend the next day.)
it sounds like situations like this are becoming a normal part of a police officer’s beat these days.
I trained as a counsellor. I wonder as police officers are taking on a kind of crisis-counselling role, will changing times mean that relationship counsellors will have to become more like police officers. With shrillness and resort to violence becoming more commonplace, will counsellors have to prepare themselves for these changed circumstances? Instead of sitting beside the client in a comfortable chair, should the counsellor sit behind a desk with a Glock 22 pistol, 42-calibre, and the latest tazer in the draw. Hmmm!
Times are changing – roles are changing. This brings to my mind, the very best choir experience I have ever had. I was obliged to be part of a choir. My disabled friend, much to the consternation of the choir conductor wanted to be part of the choir. Partly to cover the fact I couldn’t read the music; I chose to stand beside him. He had two or three notes which he sang with gusto whatever others were singing. The conductor insisted we all had blue folders with plastic envelopes in which to put the pages of music. When it came to the performance, I forgot my folder but assured the conductor, I would look on my friend’s folder which I did. When he opened his folder, I could see he had nothing inside the plastic envelopes. So, we went through the whole performance obediently flicking through the empty plastic envelopes. My friend made loud noises and I tried to follow the tune. It was great fun (but not for everybody though I can hold a tune).
Counsellors with guns. Choir members with empty folders. The times they are a-changing!