A former NSW Police officer tells The Point what 13 years of experience on the job has taught her about systemic racism and what needs to change to tackle the problem.
Nadine Silva

The Point
24 Jun 2020 - 6:25 PM  UPDATED 24 Jun 2020 - 6:25 PM

Growing up in Waterloo, none of Jarin Baigent’s interactions with police felt safe. 

“When our house would get broken into and police would respond, the way we were treated or spoken to, it was like we weren't very important,” she tells NITV's The Point.

It was interactions like these that made Jarin feel like she could do a better job if she was a police officer.

“If I was to go into any other Aboriginal home or work in community, I would make sure that children didn't feel the way I felt when I had those interactions with police.”

However, when she finally decided to join the police force, her family expressed some concerns and fears for Jarin going up against a system renowned for targeting Aboriginal people and communities.

On the job, Jarin says she crossed paths with close members of her family who struggled to see past her uniform, even to the point of not recognising her in the street. 

“That to me speaks volumes about the impact of what wearing a uniform in community actually represents," she says.

"so it has to be treated with respect and sensitivity - you can't take it personally if somebody has an adverse reaction.”

As an Aboriginal woman, Jarin says she understands why the barriers between Indigenous people and the police are ever present, but insists that her ability to communicate with her own community while she was a police officer provided a huge asset.

However, earning the trust of her own community came with the huge responsibility of being seen as the “safe person” in uniform.

“We don’t clock off. Our phones don’t stop," she says. "In fact, since I’ve left the police force, my phone still doesn’t stop.”

There are also deep-seated fears within Indigenous communities that Jarin believes need to be acknowledged.

“A real present fear from community is that when [Aboriginal people] make a report to police, they're either not going to be heard or taken seriously, or that it might not be investigated thoroughly.”

Jarin says she believes these fears are attributed to a long list of incidents that have happened in the past that have impacted Aboriginal lives, and the additional pain and trauma inflicted after seemingly being invalidated by systems that are supposed to keep everyone safe.

Jarin refers to the incident in Surry Hills involving a police officer body slamming an Aboriginal teen onto the pavement and describes it as "disappointing".

"It hurt me as an Aboriginal person, but also somebody who served in the police force,” she says. 

New South Wales police commissioner Mick Fuller later defended the police officer involved, saying the officer “had a bad day”.

Jarin takes issue with the commissioner's assessment.

“While that police officer may have had a bad day, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad that young person's day," she says.

“How is that young person supposed to feel about police officers now? We all have bad days and we can’t do things like that when we do.”

In her 13 years in the police force, Jarin says she the victim of racism many times and that what she experienced is reflective of what can be seen more broadly in Australia now.

When she did muster the courage to call things out that she felt were racist or had racist undertones, Jarin says she became “the person of issue”. 

“It’s just a feeling of powerlessness, it needs to be addressed.

“I also think the issue around racism is that when people adjudicate what is deemed as racist, it’s a person who’s not Aboriginal - so they’re the person who’s determining whether or not an incident or comment is deemed a racist and that’s just not good enough.”

- For more on Jarin's story, tune in to tonight's episode of The Point on NITV (Ch34) at 8.30pm