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MEET YOUR LOCAL 000 HEROES

Published:
26/10/2017
Author:
Think Local

Being a police officer means working on the frontline and regularly dealing with life or death situations. 
A normal shift can see the officer attending a traumatic car crash, investigating murders, suicides, domestic violence cases, fraud, enforcing an AVO, plus so much more. The following day could entail visiting someone on the child protection register, locating missing people, investigating break-ins or dealing with workplace accidents. 
Peninsula Living recently spent a busy Friday night on the beat with Northern Beaches Local Area Command (LAC) which receives, on average, 70 calls for assistance each day. 

Peninsula Living recently spent a busy Friday night on the beat with Northern Beaches Local Area Command (LAC) which receives, on average, 70 calls for assistance each day. 
"Usually, we don't know what we're facing until we arrive at the scene," Inspector Susan Preston, who leads the 6pm briefing with approximately 20 officers, tells Peninsula Living. 
"With first response, two-to-three car crews usually attend, but each shift and situation is different - you never know what's going to happen." 

Northern Beaches LAC is the second biggest command in the state, after St George, and there are currently 285 officers covering a population of nearly 253,000 people from Palm Beach down to Manly and across to Davidson and Duffys Forest. 
General duty officers are usually first response, and there are 25 on this shift, including probationary constables (PCs) who spend their first year on the job being mentored by more experienced police officers. 
There are 153 general duty officers based on the Northern Beaches who work out of Dee Why and Manly stations, which are manned 24/7. Other departments include the crime management unit, detectives, education officers, beats and the proactive team. 

During the 6pm briefing, local crooks and the night's plans are discussed. Peninsula Living is paired in a police patrol car with Leading Senior Constable (LSC) Russell Smith and PC Josh Paterson. 
The rough plan for us is patrolling - or 'fishing' - from 6.30pm until 8pm, which entails driving around the area looking for anything untoward, carrying out random breath tests (RBTs) outside Brookvale Oval with the target of breath testing 100 cars, then joining other officers patrolling Manly Corso. All of this is juggled with attending calls for assistance. When a 000 call comes in, it usually goes to an operator based at Sydney 
Police Centre in Surry Hills who extracts the information, assesses it and then assigns to the relevant force. 
"There's a Northern Beaches daytime and a Northern Beaches night time," LSC Smith sums up as he puts on his 10kg load-bearing vest, which holds his gun, radio, taser, capsicum spray, radio, handcuffs and baton. 
"There are lots of alternatives to arrest, and communication is always first," he explains. "We constantly make critical decisions in a split second, and using a firearm is the last resort." 
LSC Smith explains the biggest crimes on the Northern Beaches currently are break and enters, property crime, car theft - Seaforth is a hotspot apparently - alcohol-related crime, drugs, domestic violence, bikies - as they have headquarters on Brookvale's Sydenham Road - mental health issues and drink driving. 
As soon as we reach the car, we're called to Palm Beach, where an underage driver has been reported doing donuts in his car in the suburban streets, swiftly followed by a domestic violence incident in Church Point. Afterwards, it's time for the RBTs in Brookvale. 
"Pittwater Road is the Parramatta Road of this area," explains LSC Smith as we it set up. "It's always so busy, and the drink driving statistics tend to be high because there's such a high volume of traffic." 

He has investigated approximately 20 murders during his 20-year police career, but says car crashes and suicides are often the most difficult to deal with, and recalls a particularly traumatic one when a man who wasn't wearing a helmet rode a motorbike into the back of a truck at 150km/h. 
"This is the sort of job you really have to want to do -otherwise it would be impossible," adds PC Paterson, who, later in the evening notices a youth acting strangely outside Manly Police Station. 
Gentle and instinctive, he checks to see if the adolescent needs assistance. It turns out the teenager is suffering from anxiety due to school and family pressures, and doesn't know where to turn. After calmly listening and offering support PC Paterson and LSC Smith contact a paramedic and mental health worker to assess him. 

"We spend a lot of our time dealing with mental health issues," says PC Paterson. 
"This guy just needed someone to talk to. But sometimes mental health situations can be scary, as they can be so unpredictable. And, obviously, suicides can really take you aback." 
After patrolling Manly Corso and nearby pubs, the police are called to assist paramedics in Balgowlah. As they're tending to an intoxicated 15-year-old girl, her friends are running amok, ripping up a fence and pelting the paramedics with stones. 
"Typical kids, messing about" says LSC Smith after giving them a stern word. 

After midnight, we're called to a disturbance at a local seniors' home, where a patient has called police, reporting intruders are breaking into his room and stealing drugs from the cabinets. Unfortunately, he's confused the "thieves" with nurses, who ere just doing their rounds until he started threatening them ith his walking stick. LSC Smith takes the lead, and it's fascinating watching how e police must be almost chameleon-like, with each approach After midnight, we're called to a disturbance at a local seniors' home, where a patient has called police, reporting intruders are breaking into his room and stealing drugs from the cabinets. 
Unfortunately, he's confused the "thieves" with nurses, who ere just doing their rounds until he started threatening them ith his walking stick. 
LSC Smith takes the lead, and it's fascinating watching how e police must be almost chameleon-like, with each approach different to the last. Whereas they were tough with the drunk teenagers and genuinely concerned for the troubled youth 
- even handing him their mobile numbers should he need to chat - they quickly assess the senior's situation and realise they must be firm with this confused and angry patient, who is still threatening the nurses. 
After approximately an hour, the elderly gentleman has calmed down and promised to go to sleep, and the nurses are reassured the officers have diffused the potentially dangerous situation. 

Back at the station, as the shift is nearing to a close, the officers reveal "silly season" - summer - is almost upon us, when the nights are longer and lighter, leading up to the busiest time of the year - Christmas. 
"It's when the booze and bad manners come out," says LSC Smith. "The bars are busier and Christmas is when families realise why they only get together once a year!" 

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