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Date: 26 March 2021 
By Jessica Cuthbert 
 
“It has been a God given privilege and a true honour to serve the men and women in the WA Police Force.” 
 
This is how WA Police Force Chaplain Keith Carmody reflected on his 24 years standing alongside the blue family. 
 
Earlier this month, Keith hung up his police hat and purple epaulettes for the final time as he retired. 
 
The harrowing reality for police officers is they are confronted with tragedy and critical incidents everyday. Some of these incidents shock even the most seasoned of officers.
 
Among many things, the role of a police chaplain is to offer support and solace to officers who are tasked with attending  these incidents and in most cases their crucial support extends well beyond the time they spend at the scene. 
 
Keith spoke highly of the extraordinary job performed by men and women on the frontline.
 
“The officers are my heroes. Their courage is outstanding and the privilege of being around them and with them while they do their work has been a God given privilege,” he said. 
 
Keith began his career with the WA Police Force in 1997 as a human resources consultant however, he has always lived with his faith and served as a Minister around Perth. It was this faith that landed him the job as a Police Chaplain.
 
“Back then, the Commissioner of Police was Bob Falconer and there was only one chaplain to cover the whole State of police officers,” Keith said. 
 
“His name was Barry May and he was outstanding. Unfortunately, he got sick so I was asked to help with his tasks, given I was a Minister.
 
“I started assisting him doing the call outs to critical incidents and providing support wherever I could. That started in March 2006 and I basically stayed there until now. We now have four chaplains in the force.” 
 
Keith said the role has been an extraordinary experience. 
 
“It’s always different, you never know what you will get called out to. We are always on call and ready to go,” he said.
 
“In doing so, I have made so many lasting friendships.” 
 
In his 15th year as a police chaplain, Keith said he has lost count of the number of crime scenes, incomprehensible tragedies, road crashes and tragic accidents he has attended. 
 
“The scenes you run into...” he trialled off.
 
“There are a lot that have stayed with me and will forever stay with me.”
 
He said the reality of policing is you never know what is around the corner and what you might be tasked with from day to day. 
 
A crucial part of a chaplain’s role is following up with officers after attending incidents or certain tasks. 
 
“I’ve had cases where I run into coppers and think, oh we did this job together. Then that officer might be involved in another critical incident, so we will meet again,” he said. 
 
“Sometimes you support an officer at a bad job and years later you hear from them because a family member is sick and needs support and because they remember you, they trust you. It really is a big police family.” 
 
Keith said the connections he made through the role are special. 
 
“I’ve had cases where I might have buried someone’s dad who was a police officer and then their daughter becomes an officer, so I have seen them come through the academy or they are planning to wed and want me to do the service,” he said. 
 
“The relationships you make are special. You get to know the officers and their families.” 
 
He said even after all his years working alongside the men and women in the WA Police Force, he is still amazed by the incredible job they do. 
 
“Officers sometimes say to me: ‘Oh I could never do what you do’ and I just tell them, well I couldn’t do what you do,” he said. 
 
“Our officers are outstanding and I truly believe that the general public really have no idea the job they do but I see everything. 
 
“The public might read that an offender was apprehended with a knife, but what they don’t know is that those officers fought for their life as someone was trying to stab them.
 
“They go out and are confronted with unimaginable things – I don’t think people realise that they are human beings just like the rest of us and that despite their professionalism they get heavily impacted by the horrific images they see.” 
 
An example of this was the Margert River tragedy in May 2018, where a family was murdered in their homes in a murder suicide. 
 
Four young children were all fatally shot in the early hours of May 11 in Osmington by their grandfather before he turned the gun on himself. Their mother and grandmother were also killed. 
 
Minutes after a triple zero call, two Margaret River police officers arrived to find the horrific scene. It was Australia's worst  mass shooting since the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre.
 
“Two officers woke up that morning and saw seven people shot in the head in their homes, innocent children,” Keith said. 
 
“They did their jobs as police officers and then it was time to come home to their own families, their own children. 
 
“That process never gets easier. Sometimes you get called out to something like that and after a while you forget the emotions and the haunting expressions. But then you run into an officer who was there and you remember. It comes flooding back.” 
 
He told Police News he has done a lot of work with Water Police who are often tasked with body recoveries. 
 
“They will be able to tell you the name and details of every body, especially the children, they have pulled out of the water. Then they must deal with the family members of these people. 
 
"It is really hard and they do such an amazing job,” he said. 
 
At these types of jobs, police chaplains are sent to ensure the welfare of officers at the scene, or to be of any assistance. 
 
This might include talking to the family members of a deceased person or informing a family that a loved one has died. 
 
“The look in their eyes is haunting, you pray for them and with them. Something like that never leaves you,” he said. 
 
Keith praised each police officer in the State, for this wonderful job they do. 
 
“The police officers in this State are the ones that deserve all the recognition. They are courageous, amazing, zealous. They do a tremendous job,” he said. 
 
“It really has been and honour to stand by them for the past 24 years.
 
“It’s a privilege, because we get invited into this area of work where officers do things and see things every day that no one knows about, that no one sees. No one knows the details and the complexities they deal with us, or how much it hurts 
them, what struggles they go through, what burdens they carry.” 
 
Aside from being called to critical incidents, Keith said a lot of a police chaplains work was helping officers through personal battles and tragedies. 
 
“Sometimes it’s not work-related but a home battle or tragedy where an officer’s child or loved one has died and they might just want some help, someone to talk to, pray with, or ask questions to,” he said. 
 
“Sometimes an officer has just had a baby and attends an infant death job and it might impact them so they reach out. We will assist the police at these scenes and in any battles they have in anyway we can.” 
 
While there have been many call outs that will stay with Keith forever, he said the hardest ones to comprehend is when one of our own are killed. 
 
“It’s when police officers die or are killed,” he said. 
 
“Whether that be on duty, off duty, an accident, an illness or suicide. Officer deaths like Damien Murphy and Dennis Green, who were killed on the job, has a huge, lasting effect on officers and the wider blue family for a long time.” 
 
He said it was phone calls just as those, that are the heart stoppers, because he knew what will happen next. 
 
“The Commissioner is going to knock on a family’s door and tell them the worst news they will ever receive. It’s haunting,” he said. 
 
“When I stand at the door, someone is dead. It’s not a good news knock on the door. It is a visit no one ever wants to receive. I am not at the door if an officer has been seriously injured, I’ll be at the hospital with them, but if I’m at the door it’s death.” 
 
Keith said his own heart stopping night was, April 22, 2020 when four police officers were killed on duty in Melbourne. 
 
“When that happened, I was home and when I heard four officers were dead in a freeway crash, my heart stopped. I said no, no this can’t be happening. I thought it was here and I thought it was four of our officers,” he said.
“I remember reaching for my phone and my heart started preparing for what we had to do. I was thinking to myself, okay I need to call the other chaplains, gather the troops, meet with the families and go door to door to each family member.
 
“It was horrific and it was the reality for the Victoria Police, my heart shattered for them. A loss like that is felt widely across the blue family. The frightening thing is that we could experience a loss like that any day in this job and we did in 2001 when four of our 
own were killed in a plane crash in Newman.” 
 
Keith said as soon as a task or call comes in regarding a critical incident, his mind instantly asks the big questions. 
 
Is it one of our own? Is it an officer? Have they been seriously injured? Have they been killed? 
 
“When you get these calls, you are always prepping for what you are about to walk into,” he said. 
 
He said even 20 years on from the Newman plane crash, he stills talks to and supports the family of the officers who were involved. 
 
“Barry May did that call out as he was the chaplain at the time, but I still help the officers and the families through it to this day,” he said. 
 
“We talk to and support the officers and their families and are involved with the service for the Bloody Slow Cup. Every year it is evident that it’s still painful for so many people.” 
 
He said one of the hardest things an officer can experience, is the death of one of their own. 
 
“They are okay with other people’s deaths, it’s their job and that’s what they do but when it comes to one of our own, that is when it’s hard,” he said. 
 
“I always watch when we do the time of reflection at a funeral when officers place a little bit of rosemary on the casket, it’s then that they break and its very hard to watch.
 
“When there is a death in the police family, it truly and deeply impacts everyone. It’s like a blanket that comes over us all." 
 
Keith said the passing of Dave Curtis, a Senior Constable and Union Director, who took his own life in 2018 was a hard time for many officers across the State. 
 
“I remember getting the call about Dave. I was on leave at the time, but I remember it well. The impact on everyone was mammoth,” he said. 
 
“It’s a call you never expect to receive or ever want to receive.” 
 
 
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Keith said from the deaths, the injured officers, fatal accidents, riots and tragedies, the jobs he has attended over the years have been a mixed bag, full of emotions. 
 
“What is abundantly clear throughout this role is the privilege of being involved and included in the police family, that’s really special,” he said.
 
He said among the bad, there are always the good days. 
 
“Unfortunately, it’s mostly bad news, that’s why the phone rings. But the good is the people, the banter and the comradery – it’s what makes up the blue family,” he said.  
 
He said knowing he has provided support, faith or comfort to an officer during their worst time or darkest hour, provided him the drive to do this role. 
 
“It is a privilege to do this role and that’s why we are so careful about who we select. You are essentially given keys to the hearts of police officers and their families, their homes and their struggles,” he said.
 
“If I could go back to before I started – I would do it all again. Right from the start I knew that this was a calling.” 
 
He said he loved being involved in the WA Police Recruit  Graduations and talking with the new officers. 
 
“I believe when the officers graduate, and they might not know it yet, but the majority are following their calling. The majority of cadets and recruits I talk to always tell me they have wanted to be a police officer since they were young. That means 
policing is inside of them," he said. 
 
“The policing I have seen is remarkable, the officers are remarkable. You can’t buy that, you can’t learn that, God gives that to you. That’s why police officers do what they do and they love it. The trouble though is that is wears down on them.” 
 
While police chaplains are kept busy with clerical and ceremonial business such as performing weddings, funerals and baptisms involving current or former officers, as well as offering words of wisdom to police graduates, they are also a friendly face 
to talk to when an officer is having at home battles.
 
“We help officers and their families who are battling illnesses or who have lost loved ones. We are there to talk to them, pray with them or however we can help,” he said. 
 
“We visit retired officers and those who are in hospice and maybe close to their end and want to talk or pray.” 
 
His faith has always been and will always be a massive part of Keith’s life. During the terrible things he has encountered within his role at the WA Police Force – it has never tested his faith. 
 
“Sometimes I get asked who I talk to when I need support or guidance and I say I have the best councillor there is, someone who understands me and listens to me and that’s my faith,” he said.
 
“Although there have been terrible and sad times, it’s never tested my faith. 
 
“There are things that I don’t know or understand but there are things that I do know, so I stick with those. When we come across heinous things and actions, I must remember that God didn’t create man this way, they created that themselves. People can say it was an act of god that made that person do that but no, it was that person did that.” 
 
Before his retirement from the WA Police Force, Keith said he had a parting message for every police officer in the State. 
 
“I pray for them. I pray to God that those officers who are serving and on duty come home safe at the end of their shift to be home with their families. I pray for them every night,” he said.
 
“I pray that they look after one another and I pray they can come home and be a dad, a mum, a partner, a daughter.” 
 
As for the new officers coming through, Keith said it was important for them to know the WA Police Force Chaplains will always be there for them and always on their side. 
 
“What will be asked of you to do in this career will be difficult, it will be superhuman at times and you will need your mates and someone to talk to. But you will become a part of a police family – the blue family.” 
 
Keith said he’ll be keeping busy in his retirement, but of a different sort. 
 
“Well, my wife Helen and I have 15 grandkids,” he laughed. 
 
“My family are very proud of me, my career and my role within the WA Police Force. I have given 24 years to this job and now it’s time to give some time back to my wife and my family.
 
“You keep getting reminded of your age when you visit old friends and they start to pass away. It makes you think of what’s important and makes you think of your family. I don’t want to die with a blue shirt on, I want to die as a father, a husband, 
a grandfather.”