This piece was written in response to the shocking revelations surrounding, and subsequent resignation of Victorian Assistant Police Commissioner Brett Guerin. Quickly summarised, he was caught posting racialised and obscene comments on the Internet under a pseudonym.
I met Mr. Guerin once in 2016, who – to his credit – was otherwise polite and accommodating towards me. He didn’t have to meet with me, yet he did. However, the nature of our discussion almost 3 years ago now caused me enough concern to turn my back on pursuing a career within the force. At the time, I was afraid I had been too sensitive, as immigrant issues are my issues. But it appears there was a lot more to it than that, stemming from factors that I will not and cannot understand.
It is also important to state that I refuse to put words in his mouth where my memory fails to reliably recollect what words were exactly exchanged during our meeting.
Subsequently, I can only wish Mr. Guerin and his family the best in the future.
“Nobody is a lost cause. They just think they are, so they don’t even bother to try sometimes.”
The first and only time I met former Assistant Commissioner Brett Guerin was in 2016. As my Honours year in Criminology was coming to a close, I was fortunate enough to get a meeting with the Assistant Commissioner to interview about a potential role within the force.
The interview took place during the time when ethnic youth violence was a hot topic, namely, because of the notorious Apex gang. As an immigrant myself, I was particularly interested in seeing what could be done to help these kids who were so disengaged and disenfranchised from the wider community.
The meeting which went for 45mins to an hour, was what I could only describe as pleasantly uncomfortable. Pleasant because Mr. Guerin was very much so towards me, polite from start to finish. Uncomfortable because it quickly became clear to me that his views were woefully misinformed.
Now this article is not a witch hunt, I’m sure Mr.Guerin’s actions will speak for themselves. Neither am I going to put words in his mouth for a meeting we had nearly three years ago now, as I am well aware that the human memory fades over time. However it is important to note that we did discuss a wide range of topics and social issues, and at no point did he proceed to rant inexorably like he has on the internet.
But I guess anonymity is comforting.
The only moment I can speak with absolutely confidence on is when we started discussing the issues surrounding the APEX gang.
Why does this happen?
What can we do?
How should we help?
Maybe it was because I was fresh out of uni, Mr. Guerin maintained a dismissive and impassioned stance towards my advocacy for education and reformation. As I sought to explain that these ‘gang of youths’ were engaging in such reprehensible behaviour for a wide variety of social reasons – lack of access, barriers to participation, poverty – rather than for the want of being bad; he maintained the Howard-ian ‘tough on crime’ outlook often caricatured in criminological study.
“You’re too young to understand.”
Yes, the then Assistant Commissioner was – and still is – more experienced and battle hardened than I will probably ever be. But, as ethnic youth violence continues to dominate our headlines once more in 2018, different perspectives are required to make lasting change, now more than ever.
I’m sure Mr. Guerin would not have faced as challenging a period as this in his entire career. And as the anti-corruption commission continues its investigation into the actions of the former Head of Professional Standards, I offer an olive branch alternative; an opportunity for education and reformation. An opportunity Mr. Guerin himself was so resistant in offering those who truly needed it.
Maybe a bit of time working with the kids he appeared to wantonly lock away, can Mr. Guerin finally come to recognise the potential in every individual that he passes, regardless of race, religion or sex. The potential to be better than we were previously.
Blame it on my youthful naivety, but I have no doubt that Mr. Guerin can absolutely do the same.
Ryan Cheng is the founder of The 88, and is passionate about telling stories surrounding travel, culture and identity.
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I’m interested to know your thoughts about this issue – should there be better checks and balances surrounding policing? Do you believe that the organization itself needs a cultural change?
Hit me up in the comments and let me know!