Teamwork pays off

ON a busy Saturday night in the South Metropolitan Police District, Community Newspapers reporter Emma Clayton spent a night shift in a police car with officers from the local Response Team. These officers respond to calls for police assistance, including urgent calls, from Fremantle to Canning Bridge and south to Beeliar, where every night brings something different.

Sure, there are foot chases and pursuits, arrests and lock-ups, but there is also planning, files, collaboration and, of course, paperwork. Much of the job turns out to be about communication and interacting with many different kinds of people in a huge range of different situations.

The South Metro Response Team (north) is based in a purpose-designed warehouse, which is ready at any moment for a team of officers to move out and get themselves to an emergency quickly.

Officer-in-charge Senior Sergeant Tony Booker manages this large team of officers, who work shifts around the clock to ensure there are always teams on call.

The dedicated vehicles mean teams can be sent anywhere in the South Metropolitan District, which includes Palmyra, Murdoch, Cockburn and Fremantle police stations, or assist the greater metropolitan area at any time.

The role of the Response Team ” which is based in the northern part of the district, with two others in the southern part of the district ” is to be first on the scene.

The team comprises several smaller teams, each overseen by a sergeant, which hold targeted patrols when not attending to emergency calls. If a crime cannot be solved when the teams attend, the file is handed to detectives or to a local policing team.

‘It’s purely about efficiency and productivity. The focus is on doing the best we can to complete the job the first time,’ Sgt Booker said.


As well as leading the team of about 80 officers at Response, Sgt Booker tries to head out on at least one shift on the road each fortnight.

Tonight I’m in the car with him at the wheel and First Class Constable Grdjan operating the Tardis, the in-car computer that allows quick access to information about people, vehicles and jobs police are responding to.

We start the 7pm to 5am shift by responding to a call for help at a business in Myaree, where a monitored alarm has been triggered by trespassers. Cameras have revealed there has been activity inside the building and police have already attended the building earlier in the afternoon, arresting two youths.

The juveniles told police there were two more people involved, so they figure this may be them returning to the scene of the crime.

We head to the building under lights and sirens, fast enough to raise the heart rate, and the officers take off with torches in hand, scaling fences and searching abandoned outbuildings, with no sign of anyone. The WA Police helicopter is in the sky overhead, searching for a heat signature and guiding police towards it.

After a search of the area and no sign of the offenders, we get a call on the radio that a group of people are causing trouble in North Fremantle and there has been a report of someone possibly armed with a gun. We race back to the car and hurry to the scene, under Stirling Bridge, once again under lights and sirens, and head back out into the dark to find those responsible.

At least two other cars arrive and residents point us in the right direction, just before a new report comes through of someone stealing from a boat moored nearby.

We are told a group of youths has been drinking, smashing bottles and making a lot of noise over a number of hours and it’s not the first time it’s happened in the area lately.

After a chase, we catch up with a 16-year-old girl who is questioned and told to go home, and later two boys, aged 12 and 14, who are given the same message and watch as their cans of alcohol are tipped out. A boy has his backpack searched and a packet of cigarettes ” ‘they’re my brother’s’ ” is turned up. Police tell them to go to a house where they will be safe and won’t upset the neighbourhood.

Soon we are back in the car, on our way to an assault in Willagee.

Tools of the trade

I learn the most important tool police officers have is an ability to talk to all sorts of different people, overcoming emotion, language barriers, as well as many distractions, to calm a situation and get as much information as possible.

They are often in stressful and dangerous situations where clear but rapid communication is vital and the ability to work as a team relies on this. There are lives on the line and the crimes don’t stop coming.