Spring 2005

By Raelene Hall

Chris Johnston is a dedicated police officer and an ambitious one. Currently holding the rank of First Class Constable, Chris is studying for her Senior Constable exams. Ultimately Chris aims to reach the rank of a commissioned Officer.

A naturally inquisitive person who wasn’t keen on office work, Chris saw the police force as offering unique experiences. Joining the WA Police at 20 Chris was a recruit at Maylands Police Academy, before completing her probationary period at city police stations. After obtaining her permanency, Chris spent time on secondment to the Kensington Detectives Office before being transferred to Cannington Detectives where she was the Child
Abuse/Historical Sexual Assault Officer. During this period Chris met and married Graeme, a detective.
Their move to Meekatharra came following the death of Chris’s mother from breast cancer. After 2 years working full time while caring for her mother, Chris (and Graeme) felt a complete change was necessary. Graeme was appointed to Meekatharra with Chris being transferred as well.
‘City and country policing are completely different,’ Chris says.
‘Country policing is very personal and you are a part of the community.’
She believes that police officers play a very important role in establishing a happy community while city policing is very hectic and impersonal.’
Drawbacks to living and working in country areas, in Chris’ mind, include the lack of resources as in the back up and support available to an officer attending a city crime, whereas in the country it may be just you and your partner. On the positive side is the support police receive from local agencies such as the Department of Community Development, Health Department, Education Department and other Government agencies.
Chris has no issues regarding discrimination in the force.

The service, led by Commissioner Callaghan, is very pro female and there is a strong support unit for females including a Women’s Advisory Network and a Women’s Branch of the Union. The Police Service also has a strong ethos in Equal employment Opportunity (EEO). Officers are trained in EEO and the service pays great attention to it,’ said Chris.
Working with children is a part of policing Chris really enjoys. She is President of the Blue Light Disco Committee, organises the Guard Constable Care and Drive for Life programmes at the High School.
She also lectures students on the Criminal Code and Young Offenders Act, which include day trips to the Police Station and Court House.
Chris finds one of the most frustrating aspects of her job is trying to help people who won’t help themselves –who are caught in a continuous cycle, whether it is domestic violence, drug addiction or alcohol abuse. ‘Other downsides’, says Chris, ‘include breaking bad news to families and the verbal abuse constantly hurled at you even though you are just doing your job.’
These negatives are balanced out by the special moments – the thank you from someone you’ve helped, the fantastic people you work with and the camaraderie you have with fellow officers. For Chris, one of the real highs is helping child abuse victims with their journey of recovery and seeing the successful prosecution of the offender.
Growing up in Boyup Brook, spending five years at boarding school in Perth, working in hospitality and travelling are all experiences Chris believes have helped her be a good police officer.
‘It has given me independence and life skills which are important traits for any police officer.’
Chris encourages other women to join the police force if they are looking for a rewarding and challenging career. There are a variety of paths to choose from, such as Detective, Forensic Officer, Prosecutor, a PE instructor at the Academy, mounted police officer or a school based police officer. Strong support for part time positions and flexible working hours allows women to continue their careers, even after having a family.
‘Being a Police Officer is like being in a big family, ‘Chris says. ‘There is a definite sense of mateship and there’s no other job like it in the world.’
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