National Police Remembrance Day


House of Assembly - Thursday, 26 September 2013, Page 7130


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (11:31): I move:

That this house—

(a)      notes that 29 September 2013 is National Police Remembrance Day;

(b)      pays tribute to the 61 members of the South Australian police force who have paid the ultimate sacrifice whilst performing their duties as police officers; and

(c)      acknowledges the dangers facing the men and women who serve in our police force to provide us with a safer and more secure community.

Today is the 24th National Police Remembrance Day, which we will celebrate tomorrow with ceremonies all over our state of South Australia. Those ceremonies will remember and honour those South Australian officers who have died while on duty. I will be in Port Augusta. It is our 24th official remembrance day, but our police have been serving us for 175 years now and over that time we have lost 61 officers while on duty. The first were Mounted Constable John Carter, aged 22, and Lance Corporal William Wickam, aged 24, both on 7 May 1847 by drowning. Most recent was Senior Constable Bogdan Sobczak, aged 52, on 26 May 2002, who died in a motor vehicle accident.

Very sadly, police officers have died in the line of duty from six drownings, two accidental shootings, four horse accidents, one stabbing, eight murders, one from thirst, two assaults, one case of sunstroke, two cases of pneumonia, one bicycle accident, and four by bushfire, including what must have been an incredibly sad situation where we lost three officers—Special Constables Mervyn Casey and Colin Kroemer, and Sergeant Cecil William Sparkes—all on the same day, 19 January 1951, when they were trapped and perished together in a bushfire in the Adelaide Hills. There have been 25 motor vehicle accidents, one gassing, one hit and run by a motor vehicle, and two other unspecified accidents.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the majority of loss of life has been from motor vehicle accidents. However, extremely concerning is that the second most frequent cause of death while on duty of a serving South Australia Police officer has been murder. Inspector Richard Pettinger in 1862, Mounted Constable Harry Pearce in 1881, Foot Constable Albert Ring in 1908, Foot Constable William Hyde in 1909, Foot Constable John Holman in 1929, Senior Constable Harold Pannell in 1957, First Class Constable Lyncon Williams in 1985,and Senior Constable David Barr in 1990 were all murdered. All of the 61 officers, regardless of how they died, had families, friends and colleagues who would have been devastated by their deaths.

In addition to those officers who have lost their life while on duty, there are the countless number of police men and women who have been injured while on duty. It is a very difficult balance between serving our state, weighing up the appropriate level of personal risk to take and not over-reacting when under pressure. Probably none of us here in this place, with the exception of the member for Little Para, who was a sworn police officer before becoming a member of parliament, can fully understand those pressures.

Nowadays, officers are under extreme media, internal, public and political scrutiny. Every moment of every day, they are under scrutiny, even when off duty. Very importantly, it is never excusable for a police officer to over-react and use excessive force, but it must be recognised what pressure police officers are under to make and act upon split-second decisions on behalf of the public and simultaneously ensure their own and their colleagues' personal safety.

Let us remember that, on average, over the last 175 years that SAPOL has been in existence, a South Australian police has died while on duty every 2.9 years; more frequently than one death every three years for the last 175 years. I ask what other public workplace or industry outside the military defence forces is there in our state or our nation with such risks over such a long time? Fortunately, it has now been just over a decade since Senior Constable Sobczak died at work.

Let's hope that modern times and modern methods are significantly improving the alarming average of one death in every 2.9 years. Every day that each of our 4,500 South Australian police officers goes to work might be a day when he or she faces a life and death situation. I thank each of them for the fact that they face the personal risks they do in order to protect our community, and I honour those 61 officers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.


No Very

Captcha Image