Yuki Onuma is the first Japanese woman graduated from the Victorian police academy in early September after 33 weeks of hard training. An article about her was published on the Herald Sun on 2 Sep 2020.
NB: Yuki was working at Footscray police station when interviewed in October, 2011. She is currently working at Keilor Downs police station (last update Dec 2011).
Constable Onuma is now working at Footscray police station.
We interviewed her about her work in Footscray, where it is considered an “unsafe” suburb and also how the training was like at the academy.
-How is work in Footscray?
It is very busy but I am having a great time with great boss and colleagues.
I like the fact that I don’t know what will happen today. With ordinary jobs, you’d know what kind of work you’d be doing in a day but with the police, you can’t plan things like
“the house is going to be burgled today”.
My duties include patrolling, working at the counter and doing paperwork in the office. I work shifts. It could be the morning, afternoon or night shift.
It was my preference to work in Footscray because I’d like to be busy.
-Have you ever encountered any dangerous situation?
There are situations that I would feel endangered before my training at the academy but not now. So the answer is “yes” if I were a common resident and “no” as a police officer.
While talking with suspicious people on the street, I, as a trained police officer, always think in my head like “how we could escape if being attacked” or “how I could protect my fellow officer” or “this person might have a weapon in his pocket”.
-Do you feel disadvantaged about being a woman and a Japanese police officer?
Not so far at the police station. Victorian police is now employing many officers from multi-cultural backgrounds and there’s another female officer of an Asian background here at the Footscray police station.
Out of my expectation, I didn’t quite get the “what? An Asian policewoman?” while patrolling in the street. Oh just once, someone asked “what is a Ninja doing here?”
-What made you an officer in the front line?
It wasn’t my dream job really.
Before commencing the course at the academy, I was working as an analyst for the Victorian Police for 1 1/2 years and the work in the front line interested me.
There are two kinds of jobs in the police force – “Sworn” and “Un-sworn”. “Sworn” officers are those who have the authority to arrest and detain people for a short period of time, along with other duties and authorities whereas “un-sworn” officers work mainly in the Forensic field. My former job as an analyst is an example of an “un-sworn”.
My main duty as a traffic analyst was to track down cars, for instance, those used in crimes.
A car at point A was caught on a council’s traffic camera. We then predict the escape route. The “sworn” officers will go and do the search based on the information we provide.
Before working as a traffic analyst, I worked at a marketing company in Japan and a staff at a university in Melbourne. However, both jobs were repetitive and boring. Just then, I heard from an acquaintance about the “un-sworn”. I applied for it and got accepted.
By the police car
-What was the training at the police academy like?
It was very tough because of the hardcore and strict training.
We spent most of our time studying laws during the 33-week course. We had thick law books on each topic and a test every week. Also, we had practicals and exams on how we should act and how a law can be applied to a certain situation.
The foot drill in the early morning and the uniform check once a week was a bit army-like.
I didn’t have a private life at all and there were quite a few people who dropped out of the academy because of the tough curriculum.
Apart from studying laws, we had physical trainings like self-defence and marathon, as well as simulation of testifying at the court and the ways of using a gun.
The Police Academy where Yuki was trained (image provided by Yuki)
With classmates at the police academy. Yuki, 3rd from the left in the front row (image provided by Yuki)
-What was firearms-training like?
In the beginning, we received trainings like trigger control, inserting a gun into a holster and gun mount positions with fake guns.
After that, we had a week of intensive gun training and an assessment on the last day of that week.
The assessment included shooting the target twice, reload 2 bullets, shoot twice again and then put it back into the holster within a certain amount of time.
All active “sworn” members have to undergo the assessment once in 6 months.
-What was your childhood dream by the way?
I didn’t really have a childhood dream.
I was doing gymnastics intensively since I was 3 so probably, a gymnast. I gave up when I was 17 due to an injury. I was very glad back then because I didn’t have to worry about my weight anymore and could go out with my friends!
-Finally, what kind of police officer would you like to be?
I went to a Vietnamese restaurant to get takeaways for lunch the other day. The Vietnamese staff and customers were so happy to see me, an Asian female officer walking into the restaurant.
Everybody gathered around me and said “same, same”, which probably meant “we are all Asians”.
They asked me many questions like “when did you become an officer” “even migrants can join the police force” “police officers can be friendly too”. Besides Asians, Africans come and talk to me sometimes during a patrol.
It might be minute but I hope I can change the “scary”, “hard to approach” impressions of police officers to more positive ones.
Story by Noriko Tabei, Go Go Melbourne