“Get in, we’ve got a job!”

Those were the first words Lucy Roberts heard as part of a police ride along, organised by the WA Police Union, two years ago.

Sergeant Dale Searles and Constable Brett Doyle pulled their police car up alongside WAPU HQ and instructed the then 25-year-old to get in quickly, as they needed to attend a domestic disturbance in nearby Osborne Park.
When they got there, the scene was confronting.

A man who appeared to be drug affected was screaming at his partner, a fight broke out between the man and police, and a small child stood helpless as her mother overdosed on drugs.LucyRoberts1

This incident was very shocking to Lucy, who was taken completely by surprise when she learnt it was all a set up. This experiment was recorded by hidden cameras and used to raise awareness of the shocking fact that police officers, who enter dangerous situations every day, are not covered by workers’ compensation.

This scene may sound familiar to some; possibly to the two million people who viewed the Union’s Crackhouse Experience video released in November 2015.
But this was Lucy’s first exposure to what policing was really like; warts and all.

“I think my words were ‘I was shocked’,” she said about the lack of workers’ compensation for police officers.

“I couldn’t believe it, considering the experience I just had.
 
“It was a really good idea to put a normal civilian in that situation. It was a definite eye-opener because a lot of people probably wouldn’t know that and would have never experienced anything like that.”

Two other participants went through the experience and  both were shocked at what they learnt and saw.

However, Lucy’s experience was different to the two other participants.

At the end of it all, she too wanted to make a difference and join WA Police.

Now, two years on, Lucy has graduated from the WA Police Academy as a probationary constable and is heading to her  first placement in regional WA.

 “I was really excited when I first got into the car that day because I didn’t know what we were going to do,” Lucy said.

“And even though it was a scary and confronting experience, I loved it.”

Lucy said from that moment on, her desire to be part of the blue family grew.

“It was not long after that, that I started to get my application together,” she said.

“The experience definitely made a difference. The  adrenaline and the buzzing afterwards; I’d never had that  before from something that would be work.”LucyRoberts3

Despite the lack of workers’ compensation, which Lucy thought was inconceivable, she still wanted to be part of something bigger than herself.

“I wanted to be a police officer because of all the cliché reasons like wanting to help people and make a difference,” Lucy said.

“I wanted something that I could be really truly proud of,  that gives you a sense of achievement, doing something worthwhile and not just a 9 to 5, clock off, get your pay cheque and that’s it. I wanted to do something with meaning.”

Lucy first had an inkling that she wanted be a police  officer while she was living at home in the UK. But the lure of travel and experiencing life outside her small country town in Shropshire was too great.

“Being a police officer has always been in the back of my mind but there’s never really been the right time or place,” she said.

Lucy went to school in the UK then continued her schooling at college. She did plan to study history and sociology at university, until she set her sights on Australia.

“I had a gap year to go see Australia because a few of  my friends had done it and said it was amazing. Suffice to say, it is a very long gap year!”

After meeting her partner Ryan in Victoria, telling her  family and becoming a permanent resident, Lucy embarked  on her six-month journey to becoming a police officer.

“It was a bit of a shock for mum and dad I think, but they’re really supportive,” she said.

“I come from a family of nurses, doctors and farmers but we are all very socially minded in that everyone in my family has careers and jobs that are about helping people and being part of something. I think that part of policing really appealed to me.”

Lucy said six months at the Academy has “flown by” but  she thoroughly enjoyed every minute.

“I’ve learnt a lot. I’ve met some life-long friends and we  have just done so much,” she told Police News.

“They have definitely put you through your paces. It’s testing and challenging at times, and it’s really varied which is good  in terms of pushing you to your limits in different ways.”

Her favourite subjects at the Academy were legal studies and personal training (PT).

“I’m a little bit of a bookworm so I knew that I would  enjoy the legal side of things, but the way the instructors present the classes is nothing like you’d expect. The lecturers are amazing and they really engage you, which makes it  so much more interesting,” she said.

“And the PT was great,” she added. “We were getting paid to do PT with amazing instructors and the staff were great.

“Every PT session was just like a big group bonding  session. Everyone just had a great time, even when we were dripping in sweat and running up sand dunes and carrying ropes on the beach,” she said.

The Academy also taught Lucy about her weaknesses and what she needed to improve in order to be a constable.

“Everyone at the Academy at some point has had the realisation that they needed help to do something. For some people it was during OSTTU where we were given guns and tasers and told what to do and what not to do,” Lucy said.

“That was pretty new to me and that was pretty challenging, but after I got over the initial shock of it, I really enjoyed it.”

WAPU President George Tilbury was there to see Lucy go from WAPU ride along volunteer to a probationary constable.

“It was great to see Lucy and the two squads finally graduate,” Mr Tilbury said.

“I have followed Lucy’s journey since she was involved in the Crackhouse Experience, so to see her join WA Police is fantastic and I’m pleased we inspired her.”LucyRoberts4

Lucy’s exposure to real-life policing before joining  had an added benefit in that it also exposed her to the  WA Police Union.

She knew the dangerous situations that police officers  face, and how important it was to protect yourself.

“There’s not one police officer that I’ve met that hasn’t said ‘join the union’ and it’s so true,” she said.

“Even being at the Academy, I’ve had a Will drawn up and it’s all sorted, which is really good. There aren’t many unions that look after you like that. Policing is a career where you need that protection.”

The two officers that escorted Lucy on the ride  along were very happy to know that Lucy had decided to join WA Police after her experience.

Constable Doyle said everyone who participated in the ride along had a positive experience and he wasn’t surprised Lucy  had joined the ranks.

Sergeant Searles said he spoke to Lucy after the experiment  and supported her joining the police. He said she had the right attitude and wasn’t scared to jump in and help.

“I'm really glad that after the experience she still wanted to  step forward. I wish her all the best,” he said.

Lucy said looking back on the scenario, there would have  been so many things she would have done differently now she  had police training.
“It was a shock to see it now after my training,” she said.

“Looking back, so much would be different. But in saying that, a lot of what we saw; the set-up of the house, the actors, etc.,  it’s pretty much bang on as to what could happen.”

Lucy is looking forward to putting all of her new skills into practical experience when she takes up her regional deployment.

“I am itching to get out there, but at the same time I will definitely miss the Academy,” she said.

Lucy said she felt lucky gaining a regional placement as  a probationary constable.

“During my time at the Academy, it was said that if you can go regional, do it because you will learn so much more in a shorter space of time,” Lucy said.LucyRoberts2

“And I’m a person that just wants to learn as much as I can.  As soon as the opportunity came up, I applied, not expecting to  get it as a recruit, but I was very lucky.

“All I want to do now is get out on the road and put everything that I’ve learned into practice and learn as much as I can.”

Her partner Ryan will also make the journey north to join her at the new posting.

“My family and friends have all been really supportive,” she said. Lucy said the move to regional WA would also satisfy her desire to see more of the State and is looking forward to meeting a new group of friends.

But Lucy will always remember the friends she made during the Academy and the road she took to get there, including a trip to the ‘Crackhouse’.

“I’m already looking forward to catching up and talking about what we’ve all done and seen and how we’re making a difference.”

By Jessica Porter