Tuesday, October 21, 2014


I ask this question in the most sincere, least snarky way possible: what do Australian police officers do? I am mystified by the fact that I see them all over, yet they are never doing anything that appears very productive. For one thing, they walk around in packs of at least 5, laughing, drinking coffee, and chatting it up. I am fairly confident a crime could be committed directly behind one of them and go unnoticed. This baffles me. In a city of 4 million people, surely it would be more effective to spread out and cover more ground? Maybe this city is so safe that being a police officer is just that cushy? Anyway, we had a super annoying interaction with what I can only conclude was a bored cop (or 15) the other day that has spurred this criticism. 

We were walking to the bank and came upon a busy intersection with no fewer than 15 officers spread out on each corner and directing traffic in the middle of the road. We assumed there must have been an accident, or the stoplight was broken. The crosswalks in Melbourne are pretty straightforward- I thought. You push the crosswalk button and wait for the green man to light up and then you walk. When the green man becomes a flashing red man, you know you only have a few more seconds to cross. When the red man becomes solid, you shouldn't cross. It goes without saying that if you make a habit of dodging out in front of cars, it probably won't end well for you. Natural selection. 

So, Peter and I got to the crosswalk and took a few steps into the road when the green man turned to blinking red. We started to hurry across the street when one of the ten thousand officers called us back. "Red means you can't cross!" he shouted. We were about a quarter of the way across already, and had stopped to turn around when we heard the officer, but when we started to retreat back, he motioned for us to continue crossing. Ok then. Anyway, we got to the other side without getting run over-imagine that- and an officer on that corner said "you crossed too late" and motioned us over. Right when he was undoubtedly going to try to fine us for something, we told him the officer on the other side had given us the go-ahead. He confirmed with that officer that he had in fact waved us on, and we were free to go. All I have to say to this is a big giant WTF. 

It became clear at this point that the ten thousand police officers were ALL manually directing (fining?) pedestrian traffic. The next intersection featured ANOTHER ten thousand (ok, at least 15) officers doing the same thing. I hope and pray this was some kind of training exercise for new officers, or there was some other semi-sane explanation for whatever was going on here. I mean, I could point them to at least 5 crackheads that frequent Flinders Street Station if they're really desperate for legitimate work.


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Welcome! I started Laura and Peter Down Under in July 2014 when my husband and I moved from the States to Melbourne, Australia for his job. I blog about expat life, our travels, food, and whatever else comes to mind. Follow along on our adventures Down Under!



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