Taking the heat in Brisbane

Vol. 47, No. 11 | NZPA | Mon December 1st, 2014

Despite intense heat, long shifts, heavy SRBAs and intermittent meal times, the 212 Kiwi cops who went to Brisbane last month to help police the G20 Summit of world leaders appear to have impressed not only their commanders but the locals.

Inspector Gary Allcock, who was involved in supporting route security, said the deployment was “fantastic” and a great experience, including seeing the logistics of such a large event.

The actual summit was only two days (November 15-16), but police were involved with security and planning for nearly two weeks, with most staff on duty for about eight days.

Although it was “unbelievably hot”, staff were resilient and careful about looking after themselves, keeping hydrated and finding shade as they provided security along routes to and from the airport, conference venues and hotels.

Kiwi cops at G20Above: Inspector Gary Allcock (fourth from left) with Assistant Commissioner Mike Rusbatch and some of the AM route security team in Brisbane, including Australian police officers.

Inspector Allcock was working with the AM shift, which kicked off about 4am each day. There were up to 80 New Zealanders on each route shift, with others working with the DPS and the motorcades.

Inspector Allcock said he was incredibly proud of the way the New Zealand officers did their jobs, including engaging with the public and “showing our community focused style of policing”. He said some members of the public seemed taken aback that a police officer was talking to them.

The summit ended without any major incidents. There were a few small protests from indigenous groups, but generally it was peaceful. The word was that the heat drove the protesters to the pub instead.

It was quite a contrast to the last G20 in Canada when riots broke out and protesters vandalised shops and clashed with police. More than 70 officers were injured.

Queensland Police, which led the operation in Brisbane, asked for New Zealand Police’s help with security. Assistant Police Commissioner Response and Operations Mike Rusbatch said New Zealand Police welcomed the opportunity to provide support, particularly as it allowed Police to reciprocate for the support shown by Australian officers after the Christchurch earthquakes.

When the Australians came to Christchurch, they had to leave their sidearms at home, which many said at the time made them feel uncomfortable.

When the Kiwi contingent arrived in Brisbane they were issued with Glock sidearms, OC spray and batons, all of which had been shipped over from New Zealand. They also received Aussie-style caps to wear with their New Zealand uniforms.

So, as part of the deployment, they got to know what it feels like to be fully armed. Reactions varied from “really uncomfortable, digging in when you sit down and getting caught on the arms of chairs” to “you get used to them in a very short space of time and hardly notice they are there”.

The Australian police officers were not required to wear their SRBAs in the 30-plus degree Celsius heat, but the Kiwi officers were wedded to theirs until, eventually, following repeated Police Association intervention, staff were advised that they could take them off if they wanted to. Unfortunately, this decision came partway through the second to last day of the deployment.

Lower Hutt Constable Craig Cloutman was assigned to the motorcade as a “comms” officer riding in the front passenger seat of the “block car” and keeping contact with the pilot car and the tail car.

He was working nights, and in an air-conditioned vehicle, so he escaped the worst of the heat. They were involved in escorting the German contingent between hotels.

It was, he said, a once-in-a-career opportunity and an “eye-opener” to see how it was run, especially being part of the motorcade team.

“We were all stoked to be there. I loved it. I met cops from all around Australia. They were really welcoming and made us feel part of the team,” he said.

The Kiwi contingent did have one challenge (faced by the Australians too) – for many, the food was a bit spartan, consisting mainly of defrosted, and not so defrosted, chicken sandwiches.

The on-duty “meals” were little more than snacks and some days they didn’t turn up at all, or ran out, leaving on-duty officers to source their own food from nearby shops, if they could.

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