Letter from William Samuel Hill

to the Editor of the South Australian Advertiser, Thursday 20 August 1885

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THE POLICE FORCE IN THE NORTHERN TERRITORY
TO THE EDITOR
I am, &c. WILLIAM SAMUEL HILL. Carrington-street, Adelaide.
Sir—Allow me to draw your attention to the gross injustice that members of the police force are subjected to when sent to the Northern Territory under inspector Foelsche. It has always been a source of wonder to everybody, and especially to the Commissioner of Police, why men rarely remain in the service long after their arrival there. It makes not the slightest difference who they are, or what they are, whether their previous characters have been good or bad— nearly all of them get dismissed or resign within a very short time after their arrival. I would here remark that a policeman going to the Northern Territory is obliged to pay his own passage, which costs £10, and not until the end of two years' service does he get this money refunded. He may then serve for one year more and get a transfer back to Adelaide. But supposing he is dismissed or resigns before the time mentioned he does not get a penny. This rule becomes particularly unjust when not only one constable but many are dismissed without having committed any offence, and others are forced to resign through mismanagement and overbearing conduct on the part of their officers, and without any enquiry taking place as to the reasons of their dismissal, no matter how often one is demanded. In my own case, after having served four years in the police with a good character, I was induced to go to the Northern Territory, and take my wife and family to live at Southport station, where there was accommodation for them, but I was turned out of my station in about three months, and ordered into barracks in Palmerston as a single man, and was afterwards obliged to send my wife and children back to Adelaide at a cost of £20; this making £30 altogether spent in travelling in about five months. Seven months afterwards I was dismissed the force altogether, for no reason that I know of except for telling the truth in the witness-box; so that about thirteen months in Palmerston was an end of my career as a policeman. I had to spend £10 more to come away. I was, however, in some degree indemnified for my expenses by a public testimonial, to which Mr. Justice Pater contributed, sending me at the same time a handsome certificate of character. The case in which I suffered from telling the truth was this—M.C. Smith, a good and experienced police officer, bad been suddenly dismissed from the police force without any reason being assigned. After he left the force be laid a charge against a sailor for attempting to stab him, and I was sent 150 miles in a boat to arrest the sailor, and was ordered to bring any witnesses for the defence, but none for the prosecution. Mr. Pater cross-examined me both at the enquiry and at the trial as to the absence of the witnesses for the prosecution, and I told him my orders. He condemned the conduct of the police as being hostile to the ends of justice. About five hours after giving my evidence on the trial I was suspended. The first charge trumped up against me was one of leaving prisoners unguarded, but I disproved it, as the inspector acknowledged; and then I was told for the first time that there was another charge against me of "breaking out of barracks" during the sixteen days' suspension. This was no more than that, while suspended, I had walked on the path in front of the barracks, which path I regarded as part of the barracks. I was not allowed to report, but was compelled to stand up and answer questions while Inspector Foelsche made notes of what I said. I had demanded an enquiry while under suspension, but no notice was taken of this demand. Now, however, I am urging upon the authorities my right to this enquiry. I have been reduced to poverty, have lost one child, had my wife's life despaired of through premature confinement, and am now thrown out of work with a bad character. It is for these wrongs that I have applied to the Chief Commissioner of Police for redness. But it is quite apart from the injustice done to myself and in other cases that I know of that I regard an enquiry into the working of the police force in the Northern Territory as necessary to ensure the efficient discharge of police duties there, and for the maintenance of order and the protection of life and property.

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