'Heed the plea for help’
By Mick Carroll, Editor Saturday, and Sunday Daily Telegraph
Saturday 10 December 2022.
But as revealed in the extract today from the memoir of the police sniper who took out the terrorist, the siege left many first responders and emergency workers with varying degrees of damage.
The handling of the siege and the police response to the threat has been dealt with in various hearings and an inquest, which have led to recommendations about strategies in containing terrorists, but there is one issue that continues to simmer in the ranks of emergency personal – and that is support for those involved in traumatic events.
‘Officer A’ is quite open about the impact of the siege, in particular the death of Katrina Dawson has had on his mental health. He is also critical of the level of support and pastoral care offered to police officers in the line of duty.
He feels let down and has chosen to pen his memoir to highlight his issues and the often-unseen pain of others just like him.
Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! is a confronting portrait of the day of infamy but also a raw and unfettered expression of grief and guilt.
It’s a book emergency services all over the world should read – and consider what they can do to minimise the damage in the future.
PANSW Police News Magazine review
We all remember that day when something happened that scared us or worried us as we wondered how that could have happened on our safe, comfortable little island. There is no denying the long lasting effect and deep trauma that these calamitous events have on our collective psyche. For some, it may have been the Thredbo landslide on 30 July 1997, while for others the destruction caused by the 1989 Newcastle earthquake triggers anxious thoughts each anniversary of that day.
For many Sydneysiders and the wider Australian community, 15-16 December 2014 are dates we will never forget. The fog of mental illness disguised as a deluded brand of religious terrorism left an indelible stain on the city, a small band of unsuspecting innocents and many first responders. The Lindt Café Siege should not have happened if the criminal justice system had worked as it should have and we as a society had been better prepared to catch madness of the kind that inflicted Man Haron Monis before he fell through the cracks in the health and justice system.
Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! by the anonymous Officer A is a memoir of his service as an NSW police officer working General Duties in the racial melting pot of inner western Sydney through to his appointment as a Tactical Operations Unit (TOU) operative some four years into his service. This book is a very blunt retelling of some of the experiences that Officer A had in GD’s and plain clothes. It details the incredible mental and physical effort he had to endure to eventually pass the gruelling TOU course.
For serving police, there are no surprises in this book as all would have experienced similar moments of boredom, fear, despair and the thrill of the adrenaline rush. But for lovers of procedural police true crime, Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! is a fresh, exciting, appetite-whetting roller-coaster of the best and very worst situations police experience.
Officer A is a self-described ‘sh*t magnet’ in the job. An epithet he embraced throughout his career leading the way into a multitude of dangerous jobs that, but for his skill, determination and the teamwork of others, may have ended differently. The rollicking retelling of the officer’s involvement in the hunt and capture of the murderer Malcolm John Naden reveals just how dangerous and laborious police work can be.
The story climaxes with the TOU’s involvement at the Lindt Café Siege in the heart of Sydney CBD. There has been a plethora of journalistic writing and high and mighty opinion written about this tragic event. But until now, there may not have been such a deep insider version of what actually happened throughout the siege.
Officer A and his TOU colleagues were the Alpha, or primary arrest team, who were the first line of surveillance at the scene, rescuing and supporting those innocent captives we all saw flee the café in a panic. The reader is positioned at the door when, after two days and a murderous action by the hostage-taker, the command ‘Tiger Tiger Tiger’ is given.
Sadly, the next 60 seconds shaped the outcome of Officer A’s police career and that of some of his TOU brothers. What happened that day to survivors and victims and subsequently to the officer is difficult to read and understand.
Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! is a very important memoir. For those who risk their lives to save others as first responders or specialists, it may be challenging to read. But it is worth persevering because of the honesty and openness of the narrative. Officer A’s story, and that of a multitude of others who served and continue to serve, will resonate in the mind of future practitioners, their families and the community.
Any response to a book like Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! is unavoidably subjective. But this is what makes Officer A’s book so powerful. You might say there is something to offend almost everyone although mere offence would be a shallow and superficial reaction to such a work. But this also means that there is something to engage almost every reader. It is a story you simply cannot be indifferent to.
The prologue primes the reader for what they came for: the inside story of the Lindt Café siege. On this level it is a gripping, ‘seat of your pants’ insider’s view of the brutal realities of what is required to maintain a free, safe, and just society. (Remarkably, Ben’s story not only captures the courage and sincerity, but also the humour, of those who are willing to do the job on our behalf.) But the book has a much wider arc, taking the reader well beyond the controversy and trauma of Lindt.
The account of Ben’s selection and training for the TOU is particularly affecting, at times a horribly dehumanizing process of turning a human being into a machine. I couldn’t help asking myself what is it that predisposes someone to be able to fulfil such a role. Beyond this, you have to admire the strength of Ben’s character and his determination.
The most moving part of the story is Ben’s struggle with mental illness and his journey through rehabilitation. Ben’s recovery inspires immense compassion and empathy, while raising complex questions about the nature and cost of violence, and what it means to be human.
The selling point of Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! is the drama and politics of the Lindt Café siege and its aftermath, and indeed the controversy surrounding its very publication. It is, after all, ‘The book they wanted to ban!’ But it is Ben’s courageous struggle to rebuild his life after having endured so much, and the message of hope and resilience this offers, that will have a lasting impact.
Frederic J. Goodfellow
BA (Hons.), MClinPsyc (Master of Clinical Psychology), BMedHlthSc (Hons.) (Bachelor of Medical and Health Sciences), MSc.
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