Tracking down armed robbers can be a painstaking challenge for Police, not only because their nearly always armed and dangerous, but they often don’t spend too long in the same hideout.
As a 24-year-old Constable with about two years in the job I was lucky enough to secure some relieving the Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB). For me I joined the Police Service in 1997 with the sole intent of becoming a Detective, so I was super stoked getting some time relieving in that area so early in my service.
The hunt was on! We had a fit young armed robber who was running around with a sawn-off shotgun. Hiding out at different houses constantly, his location was hard to pin down.
One thing we knew was that wherever his girlfriend was he would be!
Then the intel came in, his girlfriend was at a house in Deception Bay.
We all kitted up and off we went, almost certain that if she was there he would be there. As we secured the outside and then moved into the house the search began. With the occupants protesting that neither of them was there our initial search drew a blank, that was until we tried to open the man hole cover.
Pushing up on the man hole cover it was obvious that there was either something or someone up in the roof pushing down on the cover. Knowing if he was up there he would be armed we drew our guns and the demands to come down were yelled loud and clear over and over again.
The situation was tense, not knowing if shotgun blasts were going to start coming down through the ceiling at us. The yelling got louder and louder requesting the person or people up there to surrender and come down.
After what felt like an eternity we heard a female voice say she was coming down. This is it I thought, if she is there, he is up there somewhere, and he will be armed. To say the situation was tense is an understatement.
After we got her down she protested that he was not up there and that she was alone. Not believing her story someone had to get up through the man hole and search the roof.
Being the youngest of the four of us by far I was soon thrown up into the roof space to search for the armed robber. My heart was in my mouth, I had my gun in one hand and a torch in the other as I started creeping my way around in the pitch-black roof space, secretly hoping he wasn’t in there.
I can remember that the roof space was covered in insulation, you know the type that looks like shredded cardboard and is normally sprayed into the roof through a large hose. It also had a massive beam that ran the length of the ceiling and was much higher than any of the other beams.
As I crept around I can tell you I was sh*t scared, sh*t scared that I was going to find him and get shot in the process.
Creeping from beam to beam listening and looking for any small bit of movement was a feeling I hadn’t previously experienced.
After looking everywhere, I could and not finding him in the pitch-black ceiling so I got back down and off we went.
That was it, we didn’t manage to find him during my 3-month relieving in the CIB and I headed back to uniform duties. It wasn’t until a few months later that things changed. I headed over to the watchhouse to assist with feeding the people who were in custody.
As I was handing out the meals to the people in custody (watchhouse) a young, fit and muscled up bloke piped up and said, ‘I know you’. Looking at him I couldn’t for the life of me think where from.
He then said proceeded to tell me that I was the one who was up in the roof space months earlier searching for him, and that he recognized me by my voice.
He then went on to tell me that whilst his girlfriend pressed her foot down on the man hole cover to prevent us lifting it that he laid on the floor of the roof on one side of the large beam and completely covered himself with the shredded insulation material.
He then boasted that at the time he was holding a loaded shotgun on his chest and told me that he would have used it on me if I had managed to find him that day.
Hearing those words at the age of 24 is something that I will remember for the rest of my life.
Sometimes people think chasing armed robbers is like you see on TV, but in reality, it is hard, long and dangerous work which involves confronting people who have little to no regard for the life of a Police Officer.
In recent years we have unfortunately lost a number of great officers in the pursuit of armed offenders. The feeling of willingly going into places like dark roof spaces searching for armed offenders is a feeling that is really hard to put into words, and one that is lost on the greater majority of society.
The stress that these high-risk activities place on the mental health of Police Officers is massive, and for some it can be an activity that is frequently repeated throughout their entire Policing career.
I know firsthand how this, and other similar incidents can affect your mental health, had I had the courage to speak up earlier about my personal mental health struggles from incidents like this, things may have been different.
If you are an emergency service worker and are exposed to incidents like this or if you are the partner of one, take it from someone who has been through it, these incidents affect those who are exposed to them.
It may not be straight away but over time the effects compound and if they are not treated they can have devastating effects on people’s mental health.
SPEAK UP AND ASK FOR SOME HELP!
To my former family in blue and other first responders I urge you to start a conversation with that one person you feel comfortable talking with about what you are exposed to whilst at work.
If you are lucky enough to be that trusted person being told this type of information, just simply listen. Intently listening and allowing that person to open up does more good then you could ever imagine.
Together we can make a difference in improving the mental health of our emergency service workers if we can first understand what they have to go through on any given day to keep the rest of society safe.
Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Mental Health & Employment | Educator |Speaker |Coach