What National Police Remembrance Day means to me
This Saturday is National Police Remembrance Day – a day when we remember those police officers who have died in the line of duty.
I thought you may like to know what National Police Remembrance Day means to me, based on my experiences as a serving police officer. Tragically, in the last 26 years, seven of my colleagues have been murdered on duty. Another 18 have been killed on duty, from various causes. All 25 police officers died serving the community of Victoria.
Constable Angela Taylor died from injuries sustained in the Russell Street Bombing. It was a crime that shocked the nation. A gang of criminals with a hatred for the police made and detonated a car bomb outside the Russell Street Police Complex. When Angela died in April of that year, I had received my letter of acceptance to join Victoria Police, and was waiting to start at the Academy. I was 19 years old at the time and I remember thinking, "What am I doing, going into to this?" But, it was a life-long ambition of mine to become a police officer, and I was sworn in on 2 June 1986.Six weeks before I was sworn in as a police officer in June 1986,
I turned 20 at the academy. On 27 September 1986 - just four days before I was due to graduate with my squad mates - Senior Constable Maurice Moore was shot and killed in Maryborough by an armed offender. I didn’t know Maurice, but his murder and the circumstances around his death were very confronting for all of us who were about to graduate and begin our operational training.
The next year, during my training rounds, I performed duty at the Protective Security Group (PSG). I came face-to-face with the criminals who murdered Angela Taylor - the Russell Street Bombers. One of the roles of the PSG was to maintain security at the Law Courts. While I was stationed at the PSG, the committal hearing for the Russell Street Bombing was held at the Melbourne Magistrates Court.
It was an incredible experience - as a trainee police officer - going out to Pentridge Prison and into the notorious Jika Jika high security unit, and searching, handcuffing and escorting the Russell Street Bombers to the prison van, then travelling in the van with a SOG escort. All intersections were blocked by motorcycle police, allowing for a free run into the city. To look those killers in the eye, deal with them, and realise they bombed Russell Street to kill police, was - quite frankly - frightening. They were violent, vicious career criminals, and very difficult to deal with.
By 1988, I was working at the Port Melbourne Police Station. On 12 October that year, I was getting ready to go to work. My girlfriend at the time (now my wife of 22 years) also worked at Port. She was on night-shift and walked in the house just before I was about to leave. I was ironing a shirt. She looked dazed. I will never forget the conversation we had.
“The Prahran Van is dead," she told me.
"What? Did they crash?," I replied.
"No. They were shot - they are dead."
I took my girlfriend to her parents’ house. I went to work and, as the day progressed, the full horror of the Walsh Street Police Killings became apparent. Prahran and Port Melbourne were, at that time, in the same police district. I did not know Constable Damien Eyre at all, but I did know Constable Steve Tynan. We were not close mates, but we knew each other professionally, and by name. The Walsh Street Killings were a revenge attacked on police, over the police shooting of career criminal and armed robber Graeme Jensen. However, at the time, we did not know that. All we knew was that two of our colleagues were dead.
It could have been any one of us killed, and the unknown shooters were still at large. I was seconded to Prahran Police Station the next week, to work nightshift from there. The Prahran Police Station needed support and extra staff. It was an extremely sad feeling working there. The grief we were all feeling – that was especially felt by the Prahran members – was, at times, overwhelming.
Sergeant Gary Silk and his partner Senior Constable Rodney Miller were shot and killed by Bendali Debs and Jason Roberts in Cochranes Road, Moorabbin. I did not know Rod Miller, but Gary Silk and I were constables together at Port Melbourne. We were good friends. I took Gary’s spot at the Prahran District Support Group (DSG) when he was promoted to Detective Senior Constable at St. Kilda Crime Investigation Unit in1989. We both barracked for Hawthorn. His murder was devastating. I miss him terribly.Ten years after the Walsh Street killings, my good friend and colleague
So, as you can see and appreciate, National Police Remembrance Day is very special to me. It holds a few different meanings. It means our job – to keep Victoria safe - is appreciated and recognised by you, the public. It means that you - the good citizens of Victoria - understand and respect the sacrifice made by police officers. It means that it is not just us - the members of Victoria Police - who remember our fallen colleagues, but also you - the public - who remember them as well.
It means we are all in this together.
National Police Remembrance Day is on Saturday 29 September, but memorial services will be held locally tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday.
A service will be held at the Frankston RSL on Thursday 27 September at 10am and at the Rye RSL on Friday 28 September at 10am.
A memorial service will also be held in the city on Friday 28 September. Police will march from Princes Bridge at 9am and proceed down St Kilda Road to the Victoria Police Memorial. A remembrance service will be held at the Victoria Police Memorial at 9.20am.