Why we should give our police a proper payrise
In 2006, I was driving out of Beirut airport in the backseat of a taxi when I had a horrible thought. Around me, cars were driving in and out of lanes, zipping past one another in dangerous manoeuvres and in disturbing excess of the speed limit, over packed with passengers sticking their arms, legs and even their heads out of windows.
Some were even joy riding on the roof of the vehicles in question, though this had more to do with a bizarre system of car pooling than anything else.
But my horrible thought did not in fact revolve around this chaos, but in the fact that in the midst of this was a lone police officer, driving along in relative calm as if blissfully unaware of the throngs of madness around him, but doing so because the scene I just painted was simply a part of the everyday and he no longer had a role in it. Would life in Australia ever be the same?
Talks between the NSW Police Association and the State government reached a stalemate over the debate regarding a 4% increase in police wages. In retaliation for the State Government’s reluctance to perhaps, as I see it, appreciate the level of commitment shown by the police to the state of NSW and its citizens, the Association declared war: ordering the officers of its 15,000-strong force to not hand out speeding tickets to motorists breaching speeding limits.
This is a move that will reportedly cost the state government approximately $2 million dollars, but what is it really costing? Despite the fact that the majority of the Lebanese population in Sydney has always copped flack for the criminal actions of its minority, I have always reminded myself that my parents, like other Lebanese before and after them, migrated here for a reason.
For the 23 years that I have been around, my parents always taught me to respect and honour the guardians of my safe, carefree life: the police who put their lives on the line everyday so that we may continue existing in relative bliss at the expense of their own comfort, time with their families, and at times, safety.
Last year, when a not dissimilar debate was raging over this very pay increase, the state government decided to increase the wages of ferry drivers who were already earning around the $100,000 mark. If our own government does not lead by example and show thanks to the NSW Police for their efforts, then who are they to expect that their citizens do the same?
My own boyfriend has now completed just over a year in the force. Behind the uniform and the supposed glamour, there’s a man, who, like his colleagues, gets spat at, abused, and victimised daily – for protecting other victims all over the state. He might work a 15 hour day, sleep for five hours, and get back on the job for another twelve hour-plus shift.
A lot of police families will always come second to the people of this state. Their birthdays get missed, their family dinners are always short one person, they might have to live with the consequences of a person whose heart bears a part that is always shut off to them because of some horror they witnessed the night, week or year before.
And instead of showing them gratitude, we’re keeping them in second place. Where we are free to be you and me, they will continue to battle wars that in other countries, are seen to be personal, or ones that we ought to sort out ourselves. Our government wants them to choose between a marginal pay increase or the entitlements they’d receive if they were hurt on the beat.
As far as I can see, if we are not too careful, we will not be too far from the anarchy I witnessed driving along a Beirut street all those years ago. Back then, I thanked Australia for being home. Now, I am not so sure.
If, Heaven forbid, a child is killed over the next week because some driver thinks he/she can utilise the benefits of no speeding fine or a lax force, what chaos would ensue? Where cops lay down lives, we have a problem laying down a 4% increase on an already measly salary. For an organisation that represents justice, when will justice actually be served?
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