“I didn’t have a friend at work to debrief”: life as an Aboriginal police officer | Books

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BWhen she was a police officer, Veronica Gorrie would come home from a bad shift, pull out the Pine O Cleen, and make her way from the front door throughout the house. She felt that the harsh scent of the disinfectant helped neutralize the smell of death and despair that floated around her uniform like a sheet, but the attention to cleanliness was also a product of the OCD and PTSD that she had developed during his work. Once, she blew up the television by rubbing the back of the screen.

Presales for Gorrie’s memoir, Black and Blue: A Memoir of Racism and Resilience, were larger than any other title in the history of his Melbourne-based publishing house, Scribe. The book details his time as one of the few indigenous members of the police force, and the added stress suffered by those who are targeted by token recruitment drives and presented as “good role models” while being expected to tolerate racist remarks and racial profiling on the job.

The first book launch Gorrie participated in was his. She talks to Guardian Australia the next day from a hotel room full of flowers. The first draft of Black and Blue was written when she was medically released in 2011, after spending 10 years working for Victoria Police and then Queensland Police.

Veronica Gorrie
Veronica Gorrie: “It’s really hard for Indigenous people to work in white organizations. It is not culturally safe for us. “ Photograph: Laura Du Vé

“By joining the police, I wanted to break the cycle of fear of the police that was instilled in me when I was very young, and that my father and grandmother felt like someone who had been robbed by the welfare and the police at the age of eight. old man, ”Gorrie said. “I didn’t want my kids to feel this fear.”

Gorrie lost a lot of friends and family by signing up. In the past three weeks, she points out, there have been four Indigenous deaths in custody and no police officer has ever been held accountable.

“We are very concerned that when we leave the house, if we are stopped by the police – and the probability is very high – we don’t know if we are going to be the next death in custody. This is the sad reality of our lives.

The day after our interview, a fifth person died: a 45-year-old native detained at Casuarina prison in Perth.

The conflict Gorrie felt upon joining the police – she remembers witnessing excessive force and considers herself complicit in not speaking “earlier and louder” – also runs through the book in another way. One of the main challenges is for Gorrie to tell her own story, which includes being a victim of domestic violence, but she is unwilling to perpetuate stereotypes of family violence within Indigenous communities.

Given that the predominantly white Queensland Police have charged 84 of their agents with domestic violence over a five-year period, it would take a decidedly blind reader to see this as an indigenous issue. In Black and Blue, Gorrie remembers having made “drive-bys” with police officers who had separated with their partners and wanted to stake out the house of their ex. “It’s harassment,” she said simply.

Veronica Gorrie as a policewoman with her father
Veronica Gorrie as a policewoman with her father

There were many things Gorrie felt compelled to keep quiet during her time in the Force, including the poverty she still lived in as a single mother. She got loans from Cash Converters to make her last until payday, and food vouchers from St Vincent de Paul and the Salvation Army.

Yet her commitment to the job was such that she had the highest arrest rate for a policewoman in her area. And her diligence even extended to herself – she once used the police computer to check the background of the woman her husband had left her for, and then, consumed with guilt, filed a lawsuit. complaint against herself, which resulted in a one-year gap. his record and a six-month pay cut. This kind of rigorous honesty is evident throughout the book, as Gorrie recalls incidents in which his empathy failed him.

But Gorrie found few ways to get help. Going to health and safety officials and a police psychologist, she says, almost guarantees other cops will know. “So you are a laughing stock, a weak person. “

“I didn’t have a friend at work to debrief with, it was so difficult,” she says. “You know you have coworkers and you go out for drinks and you have barbies and that?” I had no one. It is really difficult for native people to work in white organizations. It is not culturally safe for us. “

Gorrie remembers waking his eldest child, Nayuka, in the wee hours of the morning during his time in the police. “I was a single parent so I didn’t have anyone to talk to. I would go to Nayuka’s room and cry, telling them about fatalities, suicides, shitty jobs. I regret that, because I have exposed my children a lot.

The cover of the book Black and Blue by Veronica Gorrie: A Memoir of Racism and Resilience

Now a writer, performer and activist, Nayuka Gorrie wrote in the Guardian in 2018: “The state and its mechanisms, such as the police, serve as a means to iron out loopholes in the system. When you’re black, you’re one of those perverts.

At the launch of her book in Melbourne, Gorrie’s three children were all in attendance. Gorrie had planned what she was going to read and who she would thank, but when the time came, she burst into tears. Only one of her children, Nayuka, had felt ready to read the book, but all three walked over to the microphone and took turns reading aloud.

“I couldn’t speak,” Gorrie says. “Everyone was crying bloody. It’s just the mind. It’s the family network and that’s what we are. We are there for each other.

Black and Blue: A Memoir of Racism and Resilience de Veronica Gorrie est maintenant disponible via Scribe

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