The Police Liaison Office role – who, how and why? Merv Trease tells all

Merv TreaseThe Behind The Log editor put some questions to Merv Trease, Police Liaison Officer in Bush Search and Rescue.

What was your path into bushwalking generally?

I joined Youth Hostel’s Bushwalking Group in 1972 while at University. I grew up in the country and had visited mountainous areas fishing during my teenage years. Bushwalking seemed the obvious activity.

How did you come to sign up with Bush Search and Rescue?

A year after joining, some older YHA members were organizing a search practice and I was invited to go. Also around this time, I started the BMLC. In 1974 I joined the search call out list and became the YHA Search and Rescue Delegate.

Before being appointed as a PLO, what other roles have you had in Bush Search and Rescue?

In 1981 I returned from a year in England. The then current S&R Chairperson was looking to relinquish the task. As I had no ‘committee commitments’ due to my year away, I took on the role for the next three years. In 1982 I acted as the FO for the search practice and was elected to the FO list later that year.

In the mid 1990’s I took on the role of Delegate for the BMLC S&R Group for several years.

About 1995 or 1996, having recently purchased my own business which curtailed my availability and freedom somewhat, I moved on to be a PLO.

What would be your most notable search?

As a searcher, the Paddy Hildebrand search at Wilson’s Prom in 1987 for its size and duration.

As a PLO, the Lake Mountain/Koala Creek search for Sundar Bharadwaj in 2002 for the fact that there were callouts on three successive nights.

What is your reaction upon receiving a call out from the Police after midnight?

Bugger! Here we go again…..glasses … the study…..pen, paper… are now awake enough to talk to the Police and comprehend their requests. The Police realise it takes a couple of minutes to wake up and they are really good at providing that time without bombarding you with details.

Then the nasty bit arrives…….it is your turn to phone and wake up others. You don’t like doing it, but you know that it has to be done.

If I was unhappy being called at all hours, I would not continue in the role. It goes with the territory.

What is the PLO role in organizing the call-out?

The first thing is to ensure that you write down all the necessary details provided by the Police and ask for any details relevant to BSAR. The Police search requirements and the time of day dictate what next.

The tasks that may need to be done, but not necessarily in this order, are

  • call in another PLO
  • find an FO
  • send out sms and email messages
  • phone the Club Contacts
  • record details of searchers available and pass these on to the FO
  • ensure transport is available for the searchers
  • update the Police with details of the FO and searcher numbers.
  • send out media releases
  • find a PEER support coordinator

Having got the call-out organized and dispatched, what is the ongoing role of the PLO?

The most important issue is to remain contactable by the FO and/or the Police. A second callout may be required, some searchers may need to return home. An issue may arise that can be handled better from Melbourne than from out in the field.

The PLO may also be contacted by media so it is important to have up to date information about what is happening in the field.

Any dramas or humorous things as the PLO?

I think that the biggest drama as a PLO was a number of years ago where I called through the FO list and did not have an FO readily available.

What is involved in handling the media?

The media always want ‘scoops’, controversial comments and criticism of people’s actions. It is essential to maintain your composure and not be ‘dragged in’. You must keep to the facts, not speculate about outcomes and develop a sense of when to say ‘that is a question for the Police to answer’.

Source: Behind the Log, Bush Search and Rescue newsletter, Issue 31, June 2010

See alsoPolice Liaison Officers | Bush Search and Rescue Victoria Manual

Neil Weatherill

Neil Weatherill joined Bush Search and Rescue in May 1989 as a Police Liaison Officer and at the same meeting volunteered as Minute Secretary.  He carried out both roles efficiently and effectively for the duration of his involvement for which Bush Search and Rescue is very grateful.

Neil (standing) with the brand new bushwacker skis and sked acquired with support from BP Australia.

Also pictured are John Retchford, John Hillard, BP Australia representative and Duncan Brookes.

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Peter Dunbar

Peter Dunbar was active with Bush Search and Rescue for over 45 years.  He contributed as a searcher, a club delegate and a Field Organiser, a role he performed for over a decade.

Peter was then a Police Liaison Officer until he officially retired at the Bush Search and Rescue 50th Anniversary event on 4 March 2000, at which he was presented a Certificate of Appreciation for his very significant contribution to the organisation over five decades.

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John Retchford

John Retchford joined Bush Search and Rescue Victoria and attended his first search in 1961. During the subsequent forty-five years he made substantial and significant contributions in many aspects of Bush Search and Rescue’s field and administrative operations.

John attended many searches and became a Group Leader.

John was a Field Organiser for twenty-eight years from March 1973 until March 2001, during which time he lead Bush Search and Rescue members on 17 searches.

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Stuart Brookes OAM

Stuart Brookes is a keen bushwalker who has contributed much to recreational bushwalking, including long service with Bush Search and Rescue, in Victoria.

Stuart has produced maps of Victoria’s Alpine Area and other popular bushwalking destinations from the late 1940s to the current day.  These maps are regularly updated and provide reliable and detailed information tailored to the needs of bushwalkers.

Stuart was director of Initial Training with the Bushwalking and Mountaincraft Leadership course from 1973 – 77 and chairman of the Bushwalking and Mountaincraft Training Advisory Board 1982 – 85.

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Rik Head awarded Emergency Services Medal

Rik Head, a long serving Bush Search and Rescue member and Field Organiser, was awarded the Emergency Service Medal for a lifetime commitment to search, rescue and safety in the bush and mountains on Australia Day, 26 January 2011.

As a Field Organiser in Bush Search and Rescue Victoria, Rik has been instrumental in implementing and improving many search, management and training methods and systems including the innovative use of technology.

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Linda Beilharz reaches the North Pole

Linda, a current and active BSAR member, and her husband Rob Rigato successfully skied to the North Pole in April this year after a strenuous 55 days. At the North Pole they were helicopered out to the Russian Barneo Station and from there on to Svalbard, Norway by the last plane for the season. Linda becomes the first Australian woman to have skied from the edge of the land to the North Pole, and the first to have done the same trip to the north and south poles.
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