Amber Renae “genuinely believed in the police system” in NSW, when she entered her local station to report a crime that had recently been perpetrated upon her. However, the response she received from the on-duty constable has completely sullied her faith in the officers in blue.
On International Women’s Day, 8 March, the entrepreneur, who helps others “build online businesses through monetising their message”, walked into the station fearing for her safety, and a little unsure about whether she should be divulging the details of the incident she’d endured.
Although, it was the reaction of the constable behind the desk that really defied her understanding of the way the system works in this state. As a taxpaying member of the NSW community, Ms Renae had “one hundred percent” confidence that she “would at least be taken seriously”.
And the reason she’d decided to report the behaviour of a “dodgy locksmith”, was to do her “bit for society” by letting the police know about a man they might “want to keep an eye on”.
However, as she recalled in her widely viewed Facebook post about the incident, the behaviour Renae experienced in the cop shop was “completely disrespectful”. And at the point she told the attending constable that she was seriously concerned for her safety, his reply was “good”.
An unwarranted act of reprisal
Two nights prior to her visit to the police station, Ms Renae heard a knock at the door of her Bondi home. Not expecting anyone, she called out and a male voice asked if her apartment was number ___ and if she was waiting on a locksmith. She replied no to both questions.
Thinking the scenario somewhat peculiar, Ms Renae later opened her door only to find the card of a local locksmith business on her door mat. And returning home on the following day after having been out, she subsequently found she could no longer fit her key into the door lock.
“I could see that there was something jammed in there. You could see it poking out,” Ms Renae told Sydney Criminal Lawyers. “So, I called a random locksmith. He came around and confirmed that someone had snapped a key off.”
Ms Renae twigged that the damage to her door lock had something to do with the night prior. And after contemplating the action she should take, she called the number on the card on the following day, and the man that answered said he was aware of her case and he called up his subcontractor.
“Within a minute the subcontractor freely admitted it,” Renae recalled. And she was taken aback by how casually he confessed to keying her lock. It turned out that he thought he was at the apartment of someone who’d ordered his services, but had since had another locksmith fix their door.
“So, he thought, ‘I’m not coming all this way out here for nothing. I’m going to take retribution, so he disabled the lock,’” Ms Renae continued, adding that he seemed to think nothing of it. However, he reluctantly accepted responsibility for the damage he’d caused, and she was reimbursed for $275.
The bias in the culture
At around 5 pm on 8 March, Ms Renae fronted up to the local police station to report what had transpired. On meeting the on-duty constable, she said, “I have a crime to report. But, I’m scared for my safety. So, I don’t know what I want to do about it.” And she reiterated how scared she was.
The former civil engineer then showed the constable video footage of her locksmith removing the broken key from her door lock, she played an audio recording of the subcontractor “freely admitting to disabling her lock” and she presented the receipt for the reimbursement.
At this stage of her recollection, Ms Renae stresses that she “almost fainted”, as she “could not believe” what the constable did next. This man in uniform asked for the locksmith’s number and then made his way over to his desk to give him a call.
According to Ms Renae, the conversation went along the lines of, “G’day mate, I have a woman standing in reception. She lives at ________ address. She’s claiming that you did this to her lock, mate. Did you do that, mate? Do you want to tell me your side of the story, mate?”
And as the word “mate” repeatedly rung out around the station, and the constable made sure the locksmith was well reminded of her address, Ms Renae realised the reason why she wasn’t being taken seriously was because she’s a woman.
The old boy’s club
“Despite seeing the evidence, he came back around to me and said, ‘That never happened. I just called him, and he said it didn’t happen.’” Ms Renae said. And when she pointed to the proof, she’d already shown him, the constable simply shrugged it off having already taken the other man’s side.
By this stage, Amber was feeling “very scared for her safety”. She wasn’t sure whether to go home, as the constable had reminded the locksmith about where she lived. And when she asked the officer what she should do if she got into any trouble, he simply replied, “Call triple 0”.
As she made clear in her video, Ms Renae now feels as if there’s no point in exposing these men, because nothing is going to happen to them, “as the boys club will protect them”. And if she did, the likely outcome would be that they’d “get a slap on the wrist” and told not to get caught next time.
And this is not the first time a woman has complained about police not taking them seriously. Victims of domestic violence in this state have long criticised NSW police officers for not taking their claims seriously, when making allegations against their partners.
While a Sunshine Coast woman recently launched her own private criminal prosecution against her former husband, as Queensland police refused to charge him over an incident where he allegedly doused her in petrol and threatened her life.
For the benefit of others
“I was subject to the most disgraceful and disturbing sexism and male privilege that I’ve ever been on the receiving end of,” Ms Renae said, as she opened her video account of the incident. “And that’s saying a lot because I used to work on a construction site.”
And the woman with a knack for building the brands of others explained that she’s now speaking out about the incident because she wants to help those out there who’ve been subjected to this same treatment, but perhaps don’t have “the courage, the conviction or the platform” to do so.
“Shall I leave it to the next girl who gets locked out of her house? Is she going to speak up? Or what about the girl who walks into his station, who’s been raped, and he treats her the same way. Is she going to speak up?” Ms Renae reasoned.
“This is the problem. I don’t want to speak up. But, if I don’t, what happens to the next girl or the girl after that?”
Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He has a focus on human rights issues, encroachments on civil liberties, drug law reform, gender diversity and First Nations rights. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, he wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.