Last month the mayor of Kalgoorlie expressed some concerns about a new factual series that he feared might negatively portray his town.
The promo he was responding to showed a cop car on the chase down a red dirt road in the outback and apprehending a huge mining truck, a vehicle which is generally not registered to go on the road. With a promise of a town that is “rife with money, murder, miners, hookers, gold-theft, crooks and outlaw bikers as well as plain old-fashioned Friday night punch-ups” it’s not hard to see why he was apprehensive.
Let me say that the promo is a bit of fun, imaginatively shot, especially as they drive past superimposed letters the size of skyskrapers that boom “Australia’s Wild West.” It’s a bit of entertainment.
Policing as factual entertainment, whether on COPS, The Force, Send in the Dogs, RBT or Recruits has never really been my cup of tea, but clearly there is a market for it. Given this, choosing Kalgoorlie as a backdrop makes complete sense.
At a gobsmacking 1.3 million square kilometers this is the world’s biggest beat -nearly the size of France- with a population of 32,000 people and 215 uniformed police and detectives. As a mining town it is dominated by men who work hard and play hard. There are open pit mines, bars, prostitutes, gambling, gold, bikies, all set against the desert, the Nullabor and the open skies.
“Kalgoorlie is a powderkeg that’s guaranteed to go off,” says the narrator.
It’s also a producer’s dream.
After a quick introduction to the boys and girls in blue, we are straight into the action on a night in Hannan Street where there are 5 pubs within 500 metres.
Narrator: “The first stop is Jugs. A joint that’s always cookin’. At night the place is more like a pressure cooker. Some punters are a bit too well done.”
The camera crew seemingly take their lives into their own hands here. Patrons play up to the camera, and that’s putting it nicely. At various times throughout the 30 minute show people pull faces, give the finger, flash a brown eye or worse. Maybe that’s what happens when you film without consent or maybe it’s because you’re hanging with the local fuzz -not sure.
It isn’t long before drunks resist arrest, abuse the cops, fight back, and are chucked in the back of the van. One bloke slapped a police horse. It isn’t caught on camera but no matter. Just pixellate his mug and cuff him on the ground. Sorted.
There’s a lot of pixellated people in Kalgoorlie, which in television usually means they didn’t agree to being filmed or the cases are still before the courts.
The first episode includes more brawls at a nightclub, including a drunken woman who “went feral on the dancefloor.”
When she is escorted to the police van by Sergeant Cameron Clifford the camera zooms in on her backside swaying in a leopard-print skirt. While he’s giving her instructions, the sarge repeatedly calls her “mate.” It’s that kind of town.
Other cops profiled include Constable Mitch Derrick who has only been on the job for 3 months, and Inspector Darren Sievwright who rejected the city crime of Perth for the open air and variety of policing in Kal.
“It’s got gold, booze and girls,” he says.
Indeed it has. 80% of the policing is alcohol-related. As one drink driver is arrested in broad daylight the narrator says, “This bloke is so pickled, he can’t seem to get past ‘Go’ on the breath test.” Crikey.
The (uncredited) narrator for Kalgoorlie Cops lays it on thick with more slang and strine than a young George Negus. It’s unnecessary given the actual footage gives a better sense of time and place (and class). As a result the narration is overkill.
But this feels like a series primed for the international market that loved shows like The Flying Doctors and A Town Like Alice. Coppers in the Aussie outback will doubtless appeal more to curious audiences abroad than a domestic market. I doubt the mayor will be especially happy about that, but somehow I suspect he has seen all of this action in his town at one stage or another too.
The police emerge from this episode pretty positively. They keep their cool when most of us wouldn’t, seeking to resolve everything professionally and swiftly (are they as polite when the cameras aren’t around?).
Produced by Eyeworks Australia (Gangs of Oz, Missing Pieces, Ready Steady Cook, You Saved My Life) Kalgoorlie Cops is hard yakka policing. If this is a genre you enjoy then this series has all the ingredients to keep you entertained.
Kalgoorlie Cops airs 7:30pm Thursday on Crime and Investigation.