Drug-busts to paper work: An insight into the tasks of a Mandurah detective

This week, the Mandurah Mail joined local detectives on jobs, including a night shift and a drug bust, to provide readers with a first-hand glimpse into police work. 

On January 11, the Mail joined Detective First Class Constable Geoff Hawley and Detective Senior Constable Harbir Pandhaal on the first three hours of a night shift.

Before leaving the office, detectives don a vest, handgun, tazer, batton and pepper spray.

We are usually running towards a threat when everyone else is running away from it – you just get used to it.

Detective Senior Constable Harbir Pandhaal

Mandurah Detectives have both ‘proactive’ and ‘reactive’ teams.

The proactive team responds to volume crime including burglaries, stolen cars and serious theft.

The reactive team investigates the aftermath of incidents including robberies, serious assaults, sexual assaults, child abuse and family violence matters. 

Senior Constable Pandhaal said Mandurah was a busy team, covering a large district which included Rockingham, Kwinana and Pinjarra. 

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“Nine out of ten times, there is always something going on – especially for us because we are crime response,” he said.

“We cover anything deemed as serious.

“Sometimes we’ll go to a job in Rockingham and be there the whole night – it’s always different.”

An average night for a detective is assisting uniformed officers on jobs with more serious crimes, conducting traffic stops and preparing court paper work.

The duo attended a job on Gibson Street about 9.30pm, after being notified a “distressed” woman’s windows had been smashed with a baseball bat. 

You go home and appreciate your family after attending a violent domestic incident.

Detective Senior Constable Harbir Pandhaal

The next-door neighbours had clear CCTV footage and detectives managed to identify the offender, who was charged with criminal damage. 

The most common crimes detectives attend in Mandurah are burglaries and theft. 

Senior Constable Pandhaal said family violence was also “rife”. 

“Unfortunately we are dealing with it all the time,” he said. 

“You go home and appreciate your family after attending a violent domestic incident.”

They agreed drugs and alcohol contributed to crime.

Every officer in the police force must start out as a uniformed constable, but can apply to different squads or positions as the years go on.

The adrenaline is pumping and you don’t think about fear.

Detective Senior Constable Harbir Pandhaal

First Class Constable Hawley explained that being a detective was not a promotion,  but more of a “side-step”. 

“I applied to be a detective after about three years, which was quite early too be fair,” he said.

“We are all the same but doing different roles – we’re all there to help each other.”

The pair said detective work was rewarding after both being in the role for five years. 

“Dealing with serious matters can be more satisfying when you get a good result,” Senior Constable Pandhaal said. 

“It can be rewarding and it can be disappointing also – it kind of works both ways.  

“I became a detective because I like investigating.”

The pair agreed public tip-offs were helpful to investigations.  

“It’s all about gathering intelligence,” Senior Constable Pandhaal said. 

Detectives resort back to their training when confronted with unsafe situations.

“We are usually running towards a threat when everyone else is running away from it – you just get used to it,” Senior Constable Pandhaal said. 

“The adrenaline is pumping and you don’t think about fear.

“You remember your training and are ready for anything.”

Within the police vehicle, detectives can access an online system to scan number plates and search criminal history. 

The pair continuously scanned number plates to see if anyone was driving on a suspended licence or doing anything untoward. 

Funnily enough, both detectives agreed more crime was committed on the night of a Full Moon. 

Executing a search warrant 

The Mail attended a detective drug-bust on a Halls head property, on January 15, which uncovered an extensive cannabis crop.

A 69-year-old pensioner was charged with cultivating a prohibited plant and manufacturing cannabis oil. 

Detectives allegedly found 19 mature cannabis plants behind the shed at the Tasker Street home. 

First Class Detective Sharlene Coe said generally five or six officers attend a drug search warrant. 

Before executing a drug warrant, detectives are briefed by the investigating officer who shares information of the owners, if they have any pets or children, the layout of the property and designates duties for each person,” she said.

“We have to check if they have criminal records and their backgrounds so we know what we can expect and best to prepare.

“Sometimes people are runners, so we would have officers waiting at the back of the home.

“It’s also best to catch them by surprise so they can’t flush them down the toilet, especially with drugs like methamphetamine –  so we will ram the door.”

First Class Detective Coe said sniffer dogs that detect cash and drugs can be requested. 

She said mostly everything is visually recorded, to be used later for court proceedings.

Drugs seized from a raid are stored in a Perth facility and destroyed after the offenders’ court proceedings are finalised. 

First Class Detective Coe said unlawfully obtained cash is banked and forfeited to the state to be used by the WA Police Force.

She said detectives rely heavily on Crime Stoppers to help with investigations. 

Contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 if you have any information to help police or detectives to tackle crime in the Mandurah community.