Thursday, July 31, 2014

Twenty Two years later!

Way way back in the last millennium, 1992 to be precise, I was transferred from Newcastle Police Station to Belmont Police Station. I didn't really want to be transferred, but it happened and so I went from a 5 minute walk to work in a relatively new station to a 30 minute drive south to an old run down station. My role within the Public Service changed and I was less than inspired by my new duties.  On my first day at  Belmont I met Jenny.  She had been transferred into Belmont about 3 weeks before me and I must say she made my transition an easy one.   We clicked, although we had few obvious common interests.  She was a smoker, loved netball, trashy magazines and P&O cruises.  None of those things struck a chord with me, yet we laughed, a lot.

The years went on and we worked in a series of failing buildings. Staff levels fluctuated and changes were made to suit.   People shifted offices and buildings, filling weird little spaces.  The original buildings themselves were completed in 1964.  Initially 1 police station and 2 residences, but by the time I arrived the residences had been converted over to office spaces. Over my years at Belmont I worked in every building,  the boat shed became brief storage, the carports were enclosed and became exhibit storage.  The original timber dock disappearred to be replaced by a metal and perspex one.   New machinery arrived.  A series of different breath analysis machines came thru,  video cameras appeared in the ceilings of the charge area, a new cell complex was crafted from nothing to provide a safe area for both prisoners and staff.  Gone were the days of cutting out warrants on the weekends. Petrol cards became the norm and our backyard bowser became redundant and was filled with foam. The massive charge books disappearred as did carbon paper.  Fingerprints no longer needed ink.

After the 2000 Olympics Belmont received a second hand fax machine from the task force.  When the station was ultimately emptied before demolition 3 weeks ago, we still had the same machine and it had survived, without servicing and without fail, all that time.  The building were added to, modified, painted in gross colours and chopped and changed to suit changes in legislation and staffing levels.

People changed too, there was a regular turnover of staff.  Sad to see some faces go, others ... not so much.  Staff married, had children and grandchildren, divorced and died.  Some took their own lives, some took the lives of others.  None without touching us all in some way. I have been to far more funerals than weddings.  Jenny died too.  Constables have left and returned as Sergeants. Detectives have left and returned as Commanders. As I age I can't believe how young they all look!  The years have flown.  I have gone to a lot of parties! I'll never forget that NYE when 2004 turned into 2005 down by the tents in Valentine with Sarabear, The Commodore and The Kent. Nick names ruled and still do!   The crims were many and varied. Often a family line appeared, sometimes a whole family.  Kids followed parents into a life of crime.  There have been some celebrity prisoners and I'll never forget the bloke charged with murder who asked me out on a date "when i get out".

We have continued to work on through some trying times.   Bushfires and storms have caused some grief.   When we have not been able to get home because of fires, flooding, road closures and fallen power lines.  We've slept in cars or in the office because we can't get back to our families between shifts.  I remember that terrible night when two good mates were surrounded by fire and had to shelter in their vehicle until help came.   The work radio brought relentless tragedy. Listening to the urgency in their voices as the search for a missing officer unfolded and the abject despair that overcame us all when she was found.  The radio brought more tragedy on the morning Dave Rixon was shot, it failed to tell us Dave managed to handcuff his killer before he passed.  His heroic last act. The chilling immeasurable sadness the morning Tony Tamplin passed is still fresh in my mind. The radio rarely brought good news.   So many sad, terrifying, horrible times. So many things that are best not dwelt on.  Thankfully, there were many more happy times.

Over the decades architects came and went, measurements were taken and plans drawn, all to no avail.  Then about 2 years ago funding was secured for a new station and whilst many of us believed it would never happen, it has.  The station is no more.  Over the last 3 weeks it has been levelled.  The abundant rodent population has found new homes and the clean up has begun.  The site is not yet ready for the first sod to be turned and, no doubt, there will be a ceremony for that!  Digging the foundations is probably not more than a week or two away.   In the interim, staff have been scattered   to the winds.  Myself and my Prosecutor have moved to a new office and it is working extremely well for us so far.  Deconstruction and demolition does cause the walls to vibrate, the noise can be loud, yet the workers are brilliant.  The chosen construction team, Kingston Building Australia,  are professional, generous and hard working.  Nothing is too onerous for them.  Again, or rather still, my workplace is full of laughter, personalities and genuinely caring people who will go above and beyond ... and I wouldn't want it any other way.

As always... for reading this far you are rewarded with images.