Mt Barker cop’s cultural relations lauded

Daryna Zadvirna and Liam CroyThe West Australian
Mt Barker police officer in charge Sgt David Johnson at the town’s renovated Aboriginal Community Centre.
Camera IconMt Barker police officer in charge Sgt David Johnson at the town’s renovated Aboriginal Community Centre. Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser, Laurie Benson

Mt Barker officer-in-charge Sergeant David Johnson says police need to strive to have a positive impact on the community without the threat of the judicial system.

Sgt Johnson was “very humbled” to be announced as one of four WA recipients of the Australian Police Medal in Sunday’s Australia Day Honours List.

The citation gave an overview of his career with the WA Police Force since joining in 1997, including stints in forensics and youth policing, but it focused on his engagement with the indigenous community.

In 2015, Sgt Johnson was appointed officer-in-charge of the Kellerberrin Police Station, where he worked with the indigenous community to establish an indigenous cultural centre.

Dowerin Work Camp inmates helped renovate an abandoned building to create the centre.

In December, 2018, he became the top cop at the Mt Barker Police Station and quickly set about forging ties with the Shire and local indigenous community.

Drawing on his experience in Kellerberrin, he sought help from Pardelup Prison Farm and local businesses to renovate the town’s Aboriginal Community Centre.

“I think it’s vitally important that the officer-in-charge of a regional police station becomes fully immersed in the community,” he said.

“You’re in a position of leadership, so it’s important to show the public that you care and want to be involved.

“I realised that really early on. I became involved in these projects because I realised you couldn’t arrest your way out of crime.

“I think, as police officers, we have to try think a little bit laterally and recognise other ways to impact the community without the threat of the judicial system.

“It’s about creating relationships and being willing to work with the community, and that can only have positive benefits.”

Outside of work, football and painting are two of his passions.

Sgt Johnson painting a mural.
Camera IconSgt Johnson painting a mural. Credit: Daryna Zadvirna

Sgt Johnson, who lives with his wife and their two dogs, said he was keen to get involved with some of the local football clubs.

He was the driving force behind the inaugural Mountains and Murals Festival, which attracted US mural artists in December.

“I love going over to America every year to work with the Wall Dogs and paint murals,” he said.

His Australian Police Medal citation said he represented the “highest traditions of the WA Police Force and service to the community”.

“Through his efforts Sergeant Johnson has achieved a reduction in overall crime in the community and increased the road policing effort by over 50 per cent,” the citation said.

“Sgt Johnson is an energetic leader (and) outstanding communicator.”

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