Wednesday, 3 July 2013

CANBERRA BOUNCERS, CANBERRA COPPERS AND AN INCIDENT AT THE KINGO ON CHRISTMAS EVE OF 2011

   CANBERRA BOUNCERS, CANBERRA COPPERS AND AN INCIDENT AT THE KINGO ON CHRISTMAS EVE OF 2011
by Dave Wheeler
   
   To begin this yarn/rant I will remind readers that it was not so long ago there were strict physical restrictions, primarily in regard to height and weight, when it came to recruiting members of the Australian Federal Police force. 
   The restrictions were based on the assumption that police had to use their bodies at times to apprehend criminals and perform other physical work, and that those who did not have certain physical attributes may have been unable to perform their tasks as well as those who did. 
   The intent of the restrictions had and still has a rational basis even though some of the restrictions they had were not necessary, because even now technology has not been able to fully compensate for the human body/s and handcuffs when it comes to finding a way of controlling violent members of the public without risking the health or the lives of such offenders. 
    To elaborate, physically weak coppers using guns, tasers and chemical sprays may be able to overpower violent persons, but in doing so they are at times not only risking inflicting on the offenders permanent physical damage or death; they are putting themselves at risk of losing their jobs or even being locked up should a court decide they have gone overboard in the use of such weaponry or its use was not necessary.
   Maybe one day scientists will come up with a gadget which will render violent people harmless without their long term health or lives being put at risk, but I would not hold my breath waiting for it. Such technology is a long, long way off, and there is a good chance there will be a genuine cure for baldness and cancer by the time it arrives. 
   Until that time as a taxpayer I am conscious of the fact that I would get better value for my money if police management hired more coppers with physical and psychological abilities which ensured they rarely needed weapons to subdue violent but unarmed members of the public. Surely two or more coppers with handcuffs should be sufficient in most cases?
    Having said what I have said about dropped physical standards when it comes to recruitment of police, I readily admit that some of the former physical restrictions were not at all rationally-based. I know of many highly successful physically powerful mixed martial artists/grapplers who would have been ruled out as being too short or light to have made any Australian police force in earlier times, but would nonetheless be a real asset in any police force when it comes to subduing violent persons. And does it really matter if someone does not have perfect vision? The ex world bantamweight boxing champion, Johnny Famechon, had pronounced short-sightedness at the time he won his world crown, and for that reason he would have been rejected at the time had he applied to be a copper anywhere in Australia. 
    Unfortunately politicians and high ranking coppers threw the baby out with the bathwater by overreacting when it came to easing physical standards for police recruits. Many of the coppers I see nowadays are appalling physical specimens who could not knock shit of a shovel. When I drove past one recently who was booking a motorist I thought it was a bull-lesbian trying to look masculine, but on closer examination I could (just) make out it was a bloke, of a sort. 
   Anyone with a background in martial arts will tell you that technique can compensate for physical weakness to a degree, but only to a degree, so teaching physically weak snags a few holds is not the answer, whether or not they are small or large people. Other than that, very few of the poor physical specimens I have referred to have had years of martial training behind them.
  Don't get me wrong; I am not saying all AFP members are physically weak and cowardly, as there are a significant number of AFP members who are very tough, both physically and psychologically. I am saying there should be no piss-weak coppers working within the AFP unless their tasks are purely clerical, but that is plainly not the case. 
   If you click on the appropriate box above and download "Tales of a Canberra Boy" you will be able to read some of the adventures of the legendary Jack Dealy, an ex Canberra copper and wrestler. He was of the opinion that if he had to use weapons against someone who was not armed he should not have been a copper. 
   If I make it to my nineties and become crippled with arthritis, should I be knocked off my mobility scooter and sexually assaulted by seven Albanian tourists wearing Bermuda shorts and socks I don't want some piss-weak snag of a copper with a university degree coming to my aid. I would rather see my taxes spent hiring tough knockabout coppers, even if they only have basic literacy, common sense, a good sense of empathy and good self-control.
   I don't want to see my argument misconstrued. When I was a teenager in the sixties it was not uncommon for coppers to get away with bashing people, and I am in no way wanting a return to that situation or in our having more of a police  state than we already have. I find the powers police currently have under anti-terrorist legislation an obscenity. 
 
  I am saying we want the best sorts of coppers possible for the job, and that does not necessarily mean discriminating in favour of prospective recruits with university degrees at the expense of more suitable people who do not have university degrees. 
   Unfortunately since the physical standards were virtually removed many coppers they hire nowadays do not even have the psychological capacity to deal with violent unarmed people without resorting to the use of weapons. I am not making a meaningless statement; there are many instances on the public record in Canberra and elsewhere of scared coppers panicking, and as a result using sprays, guns or tasers on violent persons who could have been overpowered by the use of the human body and handcuffs had the right sorts of coppers been present at the time.  
    This brings me to the matter of how bouncers and private security companies are being relied on a great deal more nowadays than they previously were because governments are too tight and stupid to recruit more coppers of the right sort. Also, politicians have been sucked into the privatisation ideology which has been extended to the keeping of law and order, which brings me onto the question of how bouncers and coppers interact.
  I have been told many stories by bouncers, particularly those who work in the Civic area, of the ineptitude of many physically and psychologically weak AFP members when it comes to dealing with violent patrons. Many they say metaphorically (or literally) shit themselves when confronted with physical violence. They cannot deal with it on either a physical or a psychological level. They are reluctant to use their weapons for obvious reasons and are more than happy to let bouncers deal with violent patrons inside and out the front of nightclubs.
    
   I was told recently by two persons of a brawl they said they witnessed at the Kingston Hotel on Christmas Eve of 20011 which involved certain alleged actions by an Australian Federal Police member. I believe what they told me was true because I know the witnesses well and consider them highly credible people. The incident was also corroborated on hearsay by a young copper I know who was aware of the incident but not present at the time. 
    What in a nutshell allegedly occurred was that after a brawl had been well-contained by bouncers an AFP member panicked and unnecessarily sprayed a chemical in the direction of the brawlers and the bouncers who had just contained them. As a result those who were brawling, some bouncers, another copper, some innocent patrons and the copper who did the spraying all inhaled the mist that was formed by the spray. All parties fell down like sacks of shit, coughing their lungs out. 
   If there are any coppers or other persons who witnessed the event I just described on that night and dispute what I am saying allegedly occurred, or would like to corroborate it, please feel free to contact me by hitting the contact button above and I will make appropriate additions to this yarn.
   In regard to more specific complaints I have heard from many bouncers, they say that although the Australian Federal Police rely on them to a very large degree and are often not able to adequately back them up because of the coppers being insufficient in number and too physically weak and snagish, some coppers are very eager to have bouncers charged with assault when complaints arise which allege that the bouncers used excessive force on patrons. 
   I am not saying bouncers should not be charged when it is warranted, but from what I have been told some coppers try to have them charged even in situations where the bouncers are being attacked and have no choice but to use attack as a form of self-defence. 
  I reiterate, I do not want my message to be misconstrued. I am not saying there are no cowardly thuggish bouncers around who should be free to lay into people without fear of being charged by the police; I am saying that very few people know what it is like to be a bouncer, particularly when they have to deal with violent subhumans who are affected by alcohol and/or amphetamines, and at times bouncers have no choice other than to be physically violent in order to defend themselves and/or others. 
   
   History over the last 10 years clearly tells us that throughout Australia a relatively large number of bouncers have been bashed senseless by violent patrons and some have been killed.
   If coppers think they have it tough when facing violent people they should spare a thought for bouncers who have no weapons, no authority and run a far greater risk of being prosecuted when they take steps to defend themselves in ways which an ignorant and naive magistrate would not be capable of realising were entirely reasonable and appropriate.
   I did not have a high opinion of bouncers when I was a teenager because I had my share of confrontations with them, and many I came across were cowardly thugs who would pick on the timid and physically weak. Such people should have been rounded up and euthanised. It is however, easy to form an opinion of a group as a whole by how a minority behave, and I now know that many bouncers in those days were just ordinary blokes trying to earn a few dollars, as most are today. I can now relate to the plight of bouncers because I also bounced when I was a younger bloke in need of money.
   Other than the companionship and a few other aspects of the job, I did not enjoy bouncing, as I did not like being forced to defend myself against violent patrons who usually had no training in the fighting arts and were also usually handicapped by alcohol and/or other drugs. And like today's bouncers I did not like having the possibility of being charged with assault hanging over me even if I had used what I considered entirely reasonable force to defend myself. 
   I must admit however, I always enjoyed the action and the teamwork when it came to breaking up fights between patrons. It meant breaking the monotony of the shift by getting some physical exercise, but above all it was the antithesis of gaining a sadistic thrill by way of executing a violent and destructive act on a fellow human. I am saying that putting a hold on a violent patron and marching him out the door without delivering to him any physical damage can be described as a justifiable and positive form of very mild violence to the extent that it actually prevents the possibility of the patron injuring himself and/or others within the club.
   I also worked as a security guard for a private company guarding public buildings for 2 years about 30 years ago. The government had decided to get rid of the govie guards partly for ideological reasons but I believe the main reason was because certain political palms were greased. This however, led to my employment, and I was once of the first private security guards on the job. Privatising the guards was a really dumb idea as it has resulted in public buildings today being less safe than they should be. I talk about my experiences as a private security guard in "Tales of a Canberra Boy."
     We still have private security guards guarding inspecting passengers at our aerodromes. They are paid a pittance and have no job security, so what motivation do they have for doing a good job? After the Twin Towers fell the USA began using government employees for the latter job as they did not want a repetition of what had occurred. Not so Australia. Both the Coalition and Labor are too stupid and ideologically-driven to take such steps.  I can recall hearing words attributed to a private security guard who was the first to arrive at the scene when the 2009 bikie brawl at the Sydney Aerodrome occurred. That brawl resulted in a fatality. When asked why he did not intervene he was reported as saying, "Why should I? I'm on $16.00 an hour, I have no weapons and no authority."
   It is because bouncers have no real authority and no weapons or handcuffs their negotiating skills are tested to the limit; more so than any other line of work.
    To bounce well a bouncer must be courteous without appearing to be weak or appearing to deliberately intimidate. Above all it is essential that a bouncer lets potential troublemakers not lose face. The name of the game is prevention and the last thing a sensible bouncer wants is a physical confrontation with a patron/s.  
   Being able to do what I have stated in the previous paragraph as well as let patrons know in a very subtle way that they would be in trouble if they attempted to be physically violent is an extremely difficult balancing act. Bouncers with such skills are thin on the ground and they deserve top money. They do however exist in the Berra, but unfortunately many become ex-bouncers because they become disillusioned with how they are treated by the law. 
   
  It does not take them too long to work out that it is not in their best interest to stay in a job where one does a balancing act between attempting to prevent oneself, one's workmates and patrons from being seriously injured or worse by the violent and preventing oneself from being charged by the police for assault. And as the law is interpreted nowadays this is at times impossible!  
   Here is where I come to the next problem faced by bouncers and to a lesser extent cops, and that is the law as it is written and how it is interpreted by naive magistrates. Why it is difficult is because the law allows one to use reasonable force to defend oneself, and what constitutes reasonable force is often decided by magistrates who have never been confronted with physical violence, know nothing about the implications of being threatened with physical violence and in particular know nothing about the physics involved in self-defence. They often do not realise that at times it is entirely reasonable for a person to perform a pre-emptive strike as a form of self-defence, particularly when one has a real threat from multiple opponents.
    I do not have  a high opinion of most magistrates. Obviously I can’t condemn all of them as one cannot judge a profession by the behaviour of a few, but I believe the great majority of them are low quality human beings. Many are so conservative they could only be labelled as simple, and I base my judgement on having listened to them in court on many occasions over my lifetime. Can you imagine them contemplating such philosophical questions as whether we have contra-causal free will? Do they still wear those childish grey wigs? Many have never really grown up.
   The great majority of magistrates throughout Australia have led very sheltered upper middle class lives despite being exposed to the effects of the worse forms of human behaviour. It is one thing seeing the results of violence but another thing actually being directly confronted with it as it occurs. Other than being well-versed in law, magistrates should be taught some good rationalist philosophy, evolutionary psychology and neuroscience and be given a basic understanding of the physics of self-defence. After that they should be made to live in the real world before they are allowed on the bench. Many magistrates have done nothing in their lives other than practise law.
   They should also have much of their power within the court removed. The arses expect people to stand up for them and bow when they come in and out of the court and address them in ways that are very servile and un-Australian. Most have appalling manners, and the Ombudsman is not allowed to act on complaints about their behaviour. Other public servants would be sacked if they spoke to members of the public in the same way many magistrates talk to people. Most humans abuse power in a manner that is proportional to the amount of power they possess. Magistrates are no exception. 
    While I'm at it, from what I've seen of ACT public prosecutors during my life many of their decisions in regard to who they prosecute appear to have been blatantly political and are also based on how much opposition is threatened. They seem to go for easy prey who are devoid of enough capital to adequately defend themselves. This allows the DPP to get his statistics up while leaving alone big fish with deep pockets who can afford QC's. And it is big fish and large corporations who usually do the most damage to their fellow humans.   
    In summing up, the purpose of this yarn/rant is to encourage the ACT Government to pay for more coppers, to hire the right sorts of coppers and to be a bit more sympathetic to the plight of bouncers, as very few people have been able to see things from their perspective. It may involve enacting new legislation. 
   Unfortunately the death of the cricketer, David Hookes, made bouncers the kicking boys for the herd; more so than they already were. This occurred even though it was found that the bouncer who caused Hooke's death did so in self-defence and was quite rightly acquitted. 
     He was first however, condemned by the gutter media and the public without them knowing anything about the circumstances which led to the cricketer's death, and I believe this was because of the bouncer's size, occupation and Slavic surname. To this day bouncers as a group continue to be vilified by the media and the public for similar reasons.  
   My advice to bouncers and possibly their employers is to organise yourselves as a group. That is the only way you will prevent yourselves continuing to be the meat in the sandwich when it comes to doing your job, because nothing will be done unless you speak and/or act as a group.There has been talk about Canberra bouncers conducting a strike for years. If they did the AFP and the ACT government would be in Shit street, particularly in Civic.
 
   Obviously AFP members have their own problems to contend with and my advice to them is to support their union and to stand up for themselves. They should learn by what happened to their weak and compliant predecessors who were thanked for their hard work and subservience by being placed on contracts.
    When I did a union delegates course several years ago the AFP were used as an example of how management shit on the weak. AFP coppers lost their permanency and were placed on contracts sometime in the 80's (from memory) and in the words of our lecturer at the time,"They lay down and took it up the arse!" 
    I reiterate, I am not saying all of today's AFP coppers are as gutless as the uniformed coppers who did not support industrial action when they were placed on contracts; nor am I saying all AFP coppers are piss weak snags who rely on bouncers. I realise there are some very tough boys amongst them and I know one in particular who is overused for his physical and mental toughness. Yet he gets paid no more than his weaker workmates., which does not please him and is grossly unfair. 
    After writing this yarn I have been told a private security company is actually contracted to patrol parts of Civic. It apparently has nothing to do with nightclubs and is paid by the ACT Government. They would obviously have no more authority than any other non-coppers, nor should they. 
    If this is true all I can say is, "What sort of idiots do we have running this place?" Talk about the ACT government abrogating its responsibilities! Again, if this is true AFP union members should feel like crawling under a rock in shame for allowing the ACT Government to get away with it. Do they have any pride, self-respect or sense of solidarity?
    Dave Wheeler
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