A HERO cop who won a national bravery award is among 1,400 police officers lured Down Under after a massive recruitment drive.
Former Sergeant Ben Woods said he couldn’t resist the pull of “sun, sea and koalas” and jumped at the chance to move to “wonderful” Western Australia.
And while the 33-year-old insists it wasn’t the state of British policing that drove him away, he admits he was often left “frustrated” by the constant negativity surrounding coppers in this country.
He also claims he and colleagues regularly felt that UK policing was massively under-funded and that senior commanders didn’t back rank and file officers.
Now the former Sussex Police officer, who quit after nine years’ service in Hastings, is settling into his new life in Perth.
In February Western Australia Government launched a campaign to recruit 31,000 UK workers leading to huge uptake from British bobbies tempted by the lure of better pay, treatment and a life in the sun.
It comes at a time when confidence in UK policing is at an all time low and morale among officers is in tatters.
Ben told UK Times: “It was just a great opportunity to get to Australia, a wonderful country, and do the job I love doing… and get some memories and new experiences.
“I didn’t hate my job in the UK, but this is an opportunity to come somewhere fantastic and reset that life.
“The people are friendly, there’s lots to do, the sun rises and sun sets are just phenomenal,” he added.
He said his former colleagues were sad to see him go but says they’re now getting “sick” of his social media posts.
“They’re saying, ‘can you stop posting the beautiful beaches, can you stop posting you with the koalas’,” he said.
The WA Police Force came calling for up to 750 qualified and experienced British cops and were flooded with 1,400 applications to make the move, with 1,000 members of forces in England alone signing up.
The first 23 cops from the UK reported for duty on Monday and the WA force is also recruiting from Ireland and New Zealand.
As part of the red carpet treatment officers were welcomed with an Aboriginal “smoking ceremony” in which an elder read scripture and the new cops had to walk through a burning pit of peppermint leaves.
“We felt so welcomed…it was very special,” Ben said. “We also pledged our allegiance to The King.”
Another officer who has made the move is Anna Miller, 38, a 15-year veteran of West Yorkshire Police specialising in child protection and sexual crimes investigations.
She arrived in Perth last month with husband Andrew and their three kids, Isabelle, seven, Tom, six, and Emma, three.
“It’s a tough job at the moment for the cops on the ground, but my move over here was because we wanted a better lifestyle for myself, my husband and my children.”
Anna Miller, former Brit cop
The experienced cop said that while there’s “definitely challenges” in British policing, that wasn’t her main motivation for leaving.
“It’s a tough job at the moment for the cops on the ground, but my move over here was because we wanted a better lifestyle for myself, my husband and my children,” she said.
“It was an adventure, it was a lifestyle choice, it was just something we wanted to do as a family.”
She praised her new life in Oz, adding: “It’s just a fantastic country, the Australian people are so chilled, friendly and have an enthusiasm for life.
“It’s got a fantastic outdoor lifestyle and we simply felt the kids could have more freedom in Australia with the access to beaches, sports and the better weather.
“We bought a kayak the other week, in the summer we’ll go snorkelling, we’ve got beaches on our doorstep, there’s some fantastic cycle paths, it’s just everything we want.”
Both Anna and Ben say the biggest difference they’ve noticed between working in Britain and Australia is the “appreciation” shown by the public towards the police.
“As a UK officer I did not feel at all appreciated… it felt sometimes you couldn’t do right from doing wrong, that’s how I personally felt,” said Anna.
“Over here in Australia the communities support their cops and they trust them and I don’t know how you make that different in the UK, I don’t have any magic answers to how you turn that opinion round.
“It’s a really challenging job and I’ve got a lot of respect for my colleagues who are still doing it in the UK.”
Her colleague Ben recounted visiting a bar in Perth when the Aussie barmaid asked him what he did for a living.
“Back in the UK I’d be like, ‘I work in a supermarket’, you don’t want to tell people you’re a cop because it’s not something people really like, but when I told her I was a police officer she was like, ‘that’s really cool, you guys work really hard’. I was like, okay, that’s different.”
The former sergeant said he has also noticed that policing in Western Australia receives far greater investment than back home.
“It seems like they’re getting proper investment into learning development, the kit, the cars, the technology,” he said.
“What did Teresa May say, ‘there’s no magic money tree’, we all understand that, but when you can spend x amount of money elsewhere, it can sometimes be surely better invested and if you can invest in things you will get better output.”
‘WE FELT UNSUPPORTED’
Ben and Anna also spoke of feeling unsupported by top brass officers in the UK and Ben added that in Western Australia the senior cops on the force are very “visible” and “vocal” unlike their UK counterparts.
“We could learn a lot from that,” he said.
Ben, who joined the police as a Special Constable aged 19, achieved a National Police Bravery Award in 2014 after saving the life of a distressed woman who almost fell from a crumbling cliff in high winds at Galley Hill, East Sussex.
Both he and Anna will go through rigorous “transition training” before starting work and will also be given Aboriginal cultural awareness training.
The pair will also be taught how to handle firearms – in Australia cops routinely carry a gun when on duty.
The WA Police Force is recruiting around 150 new officers a year for the next five years.
Western Australia’s Minister for Police Paul Papalia is the lead highwayman swiping our best cops.
He said he’s “intent” on “stealing your best people”.
“The response has been extremely positive,” he told UK Times.
“Western Australia is a great place to live and work, some of the officers have already enrolled their kids in the local surf club.
“Compared to the UK, we have higher wages, a lower cost of living and the perfect climate for year-round adventure.”
Mr Papalia said officers are provided with a concierge service to help with the move and the cost of their visa will be reimbursed.