On the blog: On duty at ACT Policing

Sergeant John Wong

Sergeant John Wong joined the Australian Federal Police in 2001. The organisation was undergoing rapid growth and transformation following the 911 attacks and it was arguably one of the most defining periods of the AFP’s history following its inception in 1979. 

Over 18 years Sergeant Wong has served in numerous AFP areas including ACT Policing, the Bomb Response Team, the Australian Bomb Data Centre, Intelligence and the International Deployment Group. 

He has extensive experience in emergency management. As a member of Woden Police Station he was deployed to the suburb of Duffy for the 2003 Canberra Bushfires. Sergeant Wong has been deployed as part of AFP contingents to assist with Post Blast Crime Scene analysis in Indonesia and Myanmar. He was also a member of the Australian Police contingent for the Christchurch Earthquakes in New Zealand.

As part of the International Deployment Group he served for a number of years overseas, on Christmas Island, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Tonga. 

Sergeant Wong has been awarded eleven service medals to date for duties undertaken in the Australian Federal Police including Governor General’s Group Citation for Bravery (Canberra Bushfires), Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal (Christchurch) and the Police Overseas Service Medal (Solomon Islands).

Sergeant Wong is currently one of the team leaders at the ACT Regional Watch House.

With a focus on recruitment this month, we asked Sergeant Wong what motivated him to become a police officer and to tell us what it’s really like to work at ACT Policing.

I spent the majority of my childhood growing up in a small country town in rural Australia, where my Grandfather served as a volunteer ambulance officer for more than 50 years. My family was heavily involved in the Ambulance Service who worked and socialised with the other emergency services in town. My Father served as a police officer overseas and as a teenager I worked for two of the local retired police officers who opened a newsagency in town. One night while delivering newspapers, we responded to an audible alarm and apprehended an offender who had broken into the local supermarket. I was always intrigued by the stories they told about their experiences in the police force.   

I was a naïve police recruit having spent my childhood in the Country. Community policing in Canberra was a steep learning curve and I was not expecting the paper work that came with the role. There is a high level of responsibility associated with police powers and the community rightly expects the associated records and accountability. Thankfully the ACT Policing Futures program has implemented a number of technological advances to streamline the collection of records and evidence for front line officers. 

Three highlights of my career are the deployment to Christchurch New Zealand for the 2011 Earthquakes, conducting duties during the Canberra 2003 Bushfires and undertaking duties as the Officer- in-Charge of Police Operations. 

In Christchurch, the AFP contingent arrived three days after the earthquakes. We witnessed an entire city including our emergency service colleagues that had been impacted by the loss of life and physical devastation. We had the privilege of assisting our police colleagues and the Christchurch community through the response and into the recovery phase of that natural disaster. We met a community that came together in the face of adversity and who were extremely happy to see Australian police.

In 2003 I was working day shift as a Constable at Woden Police Station. I was deployed to the suburb of Duffy when the fire front hit. The flames that engulfed the pine forest bordering the suburb were twice as high as the trees. I worked a very long shift that day and continued to work 12 hour days for the next few weeks. I got to witness members of the public helping complete strangers flee the suburb and protect each other’s homes at the height of the fire. We had members of the community that had lost their home, drop donations off at the police station and to residents in the suburbs. Unfortunately I also witnessed the opportunistic offenders that attempted to loot during and after the fires, and the brave neighbours who swiftly apprehended them until police arrived. We also saw the community come together to mourn the tragic loss of life that was associated with the fires.

I have also been fortunate to undertake duties as the Officer-in-Charge of ACT Policing Operations for the past 16 months. I have enjoyed the challenge of running a business area and managing more than 70 diverse members; a large percentage of which I recruited into the AFP.  This was an extremely humbling and rewarding role.

It is a great privilege helping the community in their time of need but the nature of the work often leaves an impact on officers that can remain with them for a long time. The AFP is an organisation that has a strong enterprise frame work with shift rostering rules and additional leave entitlements to support officers. The AFP provides specialised support to officers through services including the Welfare Network, Chaplaincy, Health, Safety and Rehabilitation. 

One of my greatest accomplishments is running a number of recruitment processes for the AFP, employing a large number of professional members into the organisation. I am proud to have recruited people from a diverse range of ages, races, religious denominations, cultural backgrounds and sexual orientations, while maintaining a gender balance. The AFP’s greatest strength is its people and the diversity of its people increases the strength of the collective which is the AFP.