David Stanley, author of TJF Syndrome, tells why this book had to be written
The idea for TJF Syndrome emerged from a desire to expose the ‘finer points’ of policing in a format that would simultaneously entertain. The use of the fiction format allowed organisational cultures and attitudes that are applied in numerous situations to be revealed without compromising anyone’s anonymity.
The need to expose the NSW Police attitude to crime and it’s victims is now of paramount importance, particularly with the disturbing increase in domestic violence offences and the mismanagement of potential terrorists.
Having observed the Royal Commission into the NSW Police come and go from within the organisation, it was disappointing to all police that were not involved in organised crime (which was everyone except a very small number) that nothing was going to change. The process of the Royal Commission (and I say the process because even to this day the vast majority of the Commission’s recommendations remain ignored) did nothing to improve the police response to crime and its victims. All that seemed to be achieved was creating a police culture terrified of complaints from the public. As complaints are seen as a measure of corruption, the avoidance of complaints becomes the priority and is drilled into every officer.
Intuitively, one would presume that the most effective method for avoiding complaints from the public about police performance would be for police to simply carry out their duties as intended by their Oath of Office and do so to the best of their ability.
Instead, a different opportunity emerged. Complaints could be minimised (even avoided) through techniques that required considerably less effort than investigating crimes – and the public would remain oblivious. These techniques are revealed in TJF Syndrome through a number of typical situations.
TJF Syndrome also delves into a number of internal policies and procedures that reveal how police manipulate overtime, the promotion system, and avoid losing their licences for minor traffic accidents. While it is acknowledged these chapters slow down the pace of the novel, they remain equally shocking.
When applied to current affairs, TJF Syndrome offers up an explanation for why the Commissioner always appoints arch enemies to the two highest Deputy Commissioner roles, why the police were (past tense because the Sydney Siege occurred five days after publication) secretly hoping for a terrorist incident in the not too distant future, and why the police serve government over the public.
TJF Syndrome deliberately offers a perspective that will challenge every reader’s perception about how police operate and why. The book actually falls into the genre of realistic fiction, and the reader will be the judge with regard to plausibility.
Knowing what the book was to be about, and how to tell the story, the ‘why?’ question emerged. What was my intention (or intentions). The first and most brutally honest intention was to write a book that people would be interested to read and talk about. Conspiracy theories, whistleblowing, the inclusion of topics normally avoided or considered taboo (such as religion and terrorism) tend to entice the senses of those who read such genres. In that sense, TJF Syndrome is controversial and will be popular with some.
My second intention I mentioned briefly in the previous interview – to initiate change. The NSW Police is hardly unique in the sense that organisational change ever incurs from within, initiated by its own managers. Change must be forced upon it. For the NSW Police, this change is imposed by decisions made by the courts (such as the recommendation from the Coroner that police firearms be upgraded to semi-automatic weapons) or by the findings of investigative journalists and subsequent scandals (think of the Burn vs Kaldas title fight), or by the actions of whistleblowers.
Irrespective of the source, if unacceptable practices, behaviours and attitudes are aired publicly, someone will be forced to do something about it. TJF is by all accounts just a work of fiction like millions of others out there. But, if by chance readers now begin to observe some of these practices and attitudes, and public debate shifts from doubt to anger, change will occur. With some luck, TJF Syndrome will be the first drop in that ocean.
Thank you David for your time!
What do you think? Does this book challenge your expectations? How so?