Sunday, July 5, 2009

It's gone down - when will it go back up?

As I was going past the Five Dock Police Station earlier this week, I noticed that the flag out the front had finally been hauled down.  I have this bugbear about it being left up overnight when it shouldn't be.  The protocols regarding flying the flag are crystal clear, and can be located immediately by typing "flag protocol" into Google.

The Australian National Flag should be displayed only in a manner befitting the national emblem. It should not be subjected to indignity or displayed in a position inferior to any other flag or ensign. The Flag normally takes precedence over all other national flags when flown in Australia. It should always be flown aloft and free and should not be allowed to fall or lie upon the ground.

The flag may be displayed at night, but only when it is properly illuminated
Although the Police fly the NSW state flag, the same rules apply as for the National Flag. You'd think the Police of all people would be capable of following the proper procedure.  Policing is, after all, a very procedures driven occupation.  If you don't follow the proper procedure when arresting and charging someone, or when handling evidence, your case will be thrown out of court.  

I imagine every police officer follows a "start up" procedure when getting ready in the morning - uniform clean and ironed, boots polished, baton, pistol, hat, cuffs, notebook, pen, keys, flashlight etc etc etc. They'd follow this procedure automatically to ensure that they don't go on duty and find that they have forgotten to take part of their kit with them.

In a similar vein, every station should have a daily procedure written down - a checklist - covering everything that has to be done either at shift handover or when the station opens and closes.  With regard to the flag at Five Dock, there are three possible scenarios:

  1. Such a checklist exists, but raising and lowering the flag is not included, or
  2. No checklist exists
  3. A checklist exists, it covers flag protocol, but it is not being followed
I don't know which scenario is worse.  Either way, senior management in our Local Area Command now knows about it, and it has obviously become someone's problem.  

I know this is a small thing, and it might seem ridiculous to harp on about it, but I believe that if the Police are to be effective, they must present themselves properly to the public.  Their vehicles should be in good condition and clean.  Officers must look like Police Officers - no one is going to trust an officer that looks like a bag of sh*t.  Police Stations and officers must present an air of authority, competence and trust.  Flying a dirty old dish rag out the front looks bad, it is bad, and it has to stop.  I regularly see Police cars and fire engines flying the flag, and it is clearly flown with pride.  Why can't our local station get the same?

It costs nothing to treat the flag properly, but the pay off in pride and self respect and public trust and respect is surely worth the effort.

No comments: