JOHN LATHAM, Police response and random violence
2am Saturday 22nd August.
Just another particular time tapestried with particular characters in Hobart docklands.
Certain identities about. They are routine pedestrians, some thugs, activity in some buildings, a few policemen and a happy chappy.
The key personalities are fixed trackable people; thugs, cops and victim.
This story is about a random act of violence and human kindness. It’s a simple story and in accord with convention will generally be put aside in favour of bigger issues and more stunning headlines.
Saul was walking well after midnight from North Hobart down Murray Street, near Parliament House. He was heading back to his car and home to his family household.
A chap heading the other way drew his eyes. Looking up from the footpath in passing he was puzzled. Nodding a return greeting his eyes again inclined to his path. There were five, in group psyche. Behind Saul’s new acquaintance one said to another ‘Go!!’ It was the lock-in for a savage power punch. Out of the blue between the intelligent well adjusted eyes of a spirited indi musician and student journalist always encouraging sane community and society. Out of the blue for Saul but likely another of others for the lads.
Saul fell, the back of his head very hard to pavement. The fist, undoubtedly aimed to make the most mess, fortunately fell higher than where it may have pushed his nose gristle up toward his brain. This was the lucky angle of his innocent downcast stride. The lads walked on up the hill. To where? People can die when their head hits the ground. Or when their nose gristle hits the brain. Yes the gentlemen walked on, without laying in the boots. “Only one punch I think”, recollects Saul. For any likely lusting reader this may be disappointment. “But it seemed to be powered by a body in motion and a boxer’s style”.
After whatever time of blackout, shock and stun, having managed to be seeking return toward perhaps simple pedestrian status, he passed by the occasional personality in that very condition. Of sorts; they stepped aside in their own bewilderment, caution, group psyche and/or negligence. His face was flooded with blood but his clothing was a giveaway of innocence in likely need. No suggestion of care was uttered. That in itself is an ill.
Maybe ten minutes after the random viciousness he was going to a lighted place in Salamanca where he could clean up. On the way he sighted a group of publicly funded policemen standing by a police van. Walking over to these people, his nose issuing strings of clot smeared over the red tender of heavy impact, his heart on behalf of his mind in shock, felt the anticipation of warm company and refuge.
Simple pedestrian compassion. Neighbour rather than puncher. Some sanity of circumstantial action and well-being rather than more of the pedestrian bypass.
Saul was otherwise alone in his savaged condition.
The boys in blue seemed in a moment of Friday night idle in their own group psyche. (Council road-workers or police, we’re the same.) “Wow, cop a look at this one!” came a comment out of a blue uniform. Just possibly somewhat because of Saul’s courteous ‘unruffled’ and apologetic approach, they were rather blasé. He felt a nuisance. Perhaps they had grown insensitive. Saul’s first words were that he had been innocently assaulted up the street there. His main concern was the possibility of disfigurement from a broken nose. The senior ‘officer’ asked him to close his eyes and shining his torch expressed that his nose looked okay and maybe you should see about it.
The hoons were heading elsewhere, and who knows from whence they had come?
Had these particular cops seen them pass by on there way to Saul’s sad event?
As police or as people the cops made no follow-up inquiry of Saul. Certainly no urgent response to public safety.
Certainly very little common-sense, everyday humane courtesy and comfort. Certainly no trip to the hospital or warm advice.
Certainly no wage earning hot-footed sleuthing on the trail for justice and solution to Hobart’s growing social disgust.
But firstly very little local brotherhood for a young fellow randomly smashed in their realm of law and order.
This is the key ill that stirs the heart of this authoring father. I am ashamed of the negligence of these particular chaps in blue. They showed no interest in Saul’s descriptions. One has long curly hair. They are a bit scruffily dressed. One has a very sore knuckle. In the slightly populated streets at 2am and only a few minutes away on foot they are likely very easily detainable.
Were there any other assaults by the thugs that night or will there be tonight? Was this their first for the night? Were the police themselves in exhaustion from their nights activities? Or were they too a little infected by the same ill as the pedestrians and the vicious gentlemen?
Was my wife’s call to the Station this morning ever going to achieve anything despite the probable mask of advice and reassurance? At this time seven hours after the event, counter to protocol, there had been no report of the incident and probably never would be. But the advice was to report it to the local Station and have them take photographs as this could help investigation via street cameras and the like.
Yes but … . Bureaucracy was happening. The report may be under fabrication as I write.
There was kindness at the Bakehouse in Salamanca where he cleaned up, and at the Royal where he was checked over and given a bed. After two hours, in checking himself out against the nurse’s suggestions, he was kindly advised not to walk to his car as the thugs may still be around.
Thirty hours later the nose is coming into the good old shape, the eyes are more swollen so that one is closed, the bruising is oozing and all the particular characters are doing some Sunday thing. For the police Friday night is probably washed over with Saturday.
It would be negligence for my wife and I not to follow-up on the negligence of those particular police.
The rest of the sludgy human response is only part of the ailing society that thinks it’s pretty hot with its technology and freedom of speech. We address that the best way we can in our daily life, aye?