On St Kilda Road between the National Gallery of Victoria and the Shrine or Remberance, just two stops from the free tram zone, lies Victoria’s least used and most useless tram stop- “Grant Street- Police Memorial.” On the West side of the stop is the Victorian College of the Arts, it’s here where future generations of buskers learn how to ply their trade. On the east side is a large median strip between St Kilda Road and Linlithgow Avenue. Here, inner suburbanites park their SUVs before walking and running around ‘The Tan.’ A bit of open space that use to only be run around by horses with tuberculous so they could have some final joy before being sent to the knackery.
This median strip between the two streets is hallowed ground in Melbourne: it can not be altered, it can not be changed, no apartments are allowed to be built here because below here lies Transurban’s Burley and Domain tunnels. On this useless and lonely ground has been built the Police Memorial.
The Police Memorial was built in 2002 after Steve Bracks proffered a memorial to the Police Union in lieu of a pay rise. The Union lapped up the idea and even offered a 10% pay cut. In retrospect, the deal was not surprising given the entry requirements to join VicPol is that you’re smart enough to not get caught committing a crime before turning 18 but not smart enough to get into Ballarat University with a letter from your mum.
“Dear Vice Chancellor, please let David into your world renowned Business Admisistraion course. He’s not the brightest boy but he has a good heart and he’s my son.”
The Police Memorial is a small, grey, semi-circular wall made of cinder block with a white spray painted checkered strip at the top. Named after the tram stop it sits next to, it’s dimuminutive size and 730 metre distance from the Shrine tells you all you need to know about how much Victorians values their police force.
Its purpose is to commemorates VicPol’s greatest achievements of the past. It remembers the times from the 80s when brown paper sandwich bags sometimes contained sandwiches. When the Chief Commissioner went to dinner during Victoria’s worst bush fires. When VicPol thought it was a good idea to turn a defence lawyer into an informant, invalidate reams of evidence against organised crime gangs and trigger years of retrials. When a drug addict was allowed to drive a car down Bourke Street Mall unimpeded and kill six people. When Chris Eccles and Graham Ashton conveniently forgot they had a conversation with each other at the start of the WuFlu outbreak. When detectives harassed an archbishop for 4 years only to result in one hung jury and then have the second case thrown out by a unanimous decision of the High Court after 10 minutes of deliberation. More recently, it commemorates when VicPol members decided to hit a disabled man with a car and then head stomp him as he lay on the bitumen.
On Wednesday last week, VicPol had one of their toughest days. They chased recently unemployed men around the city on a warm spring day. The men were prepared however, they brought water bottles and beer cans so they could stay hydrated. After 4 hours the call of nature was getting strong but with every CBD business bankrupt and Melbourne City Council shutting down all the public toilets, the protesters became desperate. Some wonder off onto side streets to relieve themselves behind cars, some found a discreet tree along St Kilda Road, others held off until they reached the Shrine when they could no longer hold on. But through all this, none even notice the memorial they were all walking past.
Police Union President, James Reid, told reporters “This is a disgraceful day. The protesters walked right past the memorial and they didn’t even think to piss on our memory. I mean, it a grey semicircular wall- it even looks like a urinal! How can these people show such disrespect to our past and present members? It’s time we had a memorial of great size and significance that lets people know that the Police force and only the Police force run this state and always will!”