Step Back Think interviewed Acting Sergeant Tom Windlow about his dedication to the Step Back Think cause and his interest in becoming involved in the Lace Up campaign 2015.
Read the interview below.
Why did you want to become involved with Step Back Think? Is there a personal connection to our organization and/or the cause?
I had known James since I was about 5 years old and regard him as one of my childhood best friends. We went to school together, we played football together, we spent a lot of time going to each other’s houses and that sort of thing, so I was very close with the family and with James.
I remember in 2006 when the incident happened, when my dad got the phone call the same night that James had been injured and was in a really bad way and it was really confronting. I think I was in a state of disbelief and probably still am it hasn’t really sunk in. It was really so full on for something that I had never had any involvement with or never had this issue effect me directly. All of a sudden there it was and it really affected me personally. I remember seeing him in hospital with no bone flap on his skull. Seeing someone that you know really well in such a vulnerable state is really, really upsetting and something you would hate other people to have to go through.
From a professional perspective can you tell us about a time you witnessed social violence as a Police Officer/ Paramedic?
It’s something that we obviously deal with a lot I have been to countless examples of that sort of scenario really they all sort of blend in because there have been so many. The common theme that I find from going to them is that a lot of them are over such trivial things that people when they are in a rational state of mind, they wouldn’t blink an eyelid, but when things are exacerbated by alcohol they do things they usually wouldn’t do and they do things that are out of character. Their emotions are heightened and they lose that point where they are able to recognise the signs.
There have been scenarios where I have had to call the family members at ungodly hours 3 or 4 in the morning and you have to say your son or daughter has been really badly hurt or there has been a fight and they’re in hospital and we need you to come in. It’s a very horrible thing to have to do, to ring family members, and when you witness first hand, the effect it has on family members – no one wants to get that phone call first thing in the morning and it’s really hard for the emergency services people in hospitals to have to do it as well.
It really affects so many people involved. It extends way beyond the people directly involved but to family, colleagues, co-workers, emergency services. When we are at these sorts of jobs, we have a job to do and we obviously get in that headspace, but you do think about it as you see how it effects families and see how they are dealing with it and you sort of don’t wish it upon anyone. Having seen how Andrew, Robyn and Tom have had to go through it, you just don’t want anyone to have to go through it.
Why is it important for the Police/ Ambulance Victoria to support this issue?
I think it’s really important to have a united front across all the emergency services and across the community. As Police and as Ambulance members as well, we see it firsthand and its part of our work, that we regularly see this sort of thing, and we see the impact it has on families and the devastation that it causes to people. A lot of people might think they are immune to it or they haven’t seen that side of things before so they don’t see how harmful it can be. We are there, dealing with it, at the frontline all the time and once people have experienced it you see those after effects and you can see the regret from offenders, because they have done something in a moment and because one moment they are out with their friends and the next moment they are coming to terms with the impacts of what they have done and how the rest of their life could be effected by what they have done and how the rest of other people’s lives could be effected by what they have done.
It can be a really sobering thought once they realise this is what could happen. They don’t take into account those consequences before hand and then afterwards it’s too late and only then does it sink in and at that stage they can’t take their time back.
Where the campaign comes in is that people have just got to try to identify this earlier and realise that when they are getting towards that vulnerable position, where they are losing control of the way they behave, that there is that potential [for violence] and they need to mitigate that risk and look after one another.
What are some of the specific implications/ consequences for people that are involved in a social-based assault?
From the policing point of view – people risk getting a conviction at court and if you are convicted of an offence, when you have a police records check that sort of thing comes up. If you have a conviction that has the potential to impact employment opportunities and your ability to travel overseas, it can have impacts on those sorts of things if you have a conviction. It’s going to hang over your head and follow you around for life and obviously in the more serious cases you have the risk of imprisonment.
People who have never been in prison or had any involvement in prison, all of a sudden, they are looking at a term of imprisonment, which is really full on and that impacts their family and again has that flow on effect and impacts people more than those directly involved.
It doesn’t really sink in until you’re actually going to court. People think, “it’s not going to happen to me” or “I have done the wrong thing, but I won’t go to jail” and all of a sudden you’re in court and being served a term of imprisonment. There is no time to prepare for something like that. Once you are in jail you’re going to jail, that’s hugely significant. Your whole life is suspended. Once you’re in jail there is no opportunity. That’s a massive deterrent.
Why are you supporting the Lace Up campaign?
There are a lot of parallels when I think about a sporting environment and street assaults or alcohol-fuelled violence, which is what the Lace Up campaign is tied into. When you start a soccer match or footy match or whatever it is, people get that white line fever and get heightened emotions and sometimes they get the adrenaline rush and wound up. They lose perspective and get the tunnel vision, because they are so focused on what’s in front of them and they lose that sense of perspective, but as soon as the final siren goes, all of a sudden this calm comes over them and go and shake hands with the other team.
People they could have been arguing with or having confrontation with during a sporting match – they are having a drink with them after the game and sharing a laugh, so people completely change. There are a lot of parallels with what is happening in terms of social violence, people almost can get a white line fever, they lose their perspective and get they tunnel vision. They don’t consider the overall impact of what happens, until it’s too late. So if people can intervene earlier and stop and realise what happens and go “hang on, why am I doing this? What’s the point? I’m better than that”, they can take a deep breath and walk away.
The campaign overall is a really good opportunity for everyone to unite as a community and to show a untied front against street assaults and alcohol fuelled violence and show that that sort of behavior isn’t tolerated. We have had enough, it doesn’t need to keep happening and shouldn’t keep happening.