Brave officer the one that got away from SA
Monday, 25th July, 2011
A certain policeman in South Australia - if he ever reads this story - might regret telling Todd Halliday that he did not look like real cop material.
Todd, from Broken Hill, went off to Queensland instead where he was welcomed into the force.
Within a couple of years he had won two commendations for his devotion to duty in dangerous situations and last year he was presented with a bravery award by the Queensland Commissioner of Police for disarming a psychotic man who was armed with knives.
Todd was born and raised in Broken Hill. His grandparents, Alf and Yvonne Rolton and Elm Halliday, still live here.
“I played footy for North and West and cricket for North. I went to Willyama High School and completed a Bachelor of Social Work Degree at the University of SA in Adelaide,” he said.
After gaining his degree Todd returned home to work with parents Bruce and Sue in their Argent Street insurance office for a year before joining the Queensland Police Service in 1999 at the age of 23.
“Originally I was going to join up in South Australia but when I went to the police headquarters to get my application form the bloke behind the desk told me I didn’t look like the kind of person they wanted,” he said.
On graduation he was transferred to Mt Isa for his first year. He then did an 18-month stint at the two most isolated policing areas in Queensland - the Aboriginal communities of Doomadgee and Mornington Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
While in Doomadgee he received two certificates of commendation for his actions during two periods of violent unrest. One broke out after the death of a child from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and the other related to a long-running feud between two tribes.
Local families were angered by what they thought was the inadequate treatment given to the mother and child at the hospital. A riot broke out and the hospital was set on fire.
“We locked the nurses in the morgue and five of us formed a perimeter guard to keep the people back until Queensland Health sent a plane to evacuate the hospital staff,” Todd said.
“All of the doctors and all of the staff except for two nurses were evacuated.”
In the other incident, Todd and his colleagues won praise for helping to resolve a dispute between two tribes over land at Doomadgee.
The trouble had started generations before when the tribes - one local and the other from the Northern Territory - were forced together on a mission in the 1930s.
The dispute while Todd was there was over who owned the land on the outstations where they sent their children to learn the traditional ways.
“It was in the wet season and every day they would hold fist fights between their champions at ten in the morning and then at five in the evening.
“We were able to negotiate with the elders a peaceful resolution, although it took us about eight weeks.”
After that Todd spent a couple of years working on the Sunshine Coast before transferring to Emerald with Kerrin, who is also a police officer in the Intelligence Department, and to whom he is now married.
It was just after arriving at his new post in 2009 that Todd was called out to the incident for which he won the bravery award.
“I was working nightwork in Emerald with my partner, a First Year Constable, Joe Cook. We were the only two people working.”
It was about 5am and they were sent to a house where a man, who was possibly mentally ill, was creating a disturbance.
“Upon arrival we went to the front door at which time I could hear loud screaming coming from inside,” Todd said.
“As the front door was locked we moved to the rear highset verandah where I was immediately confronted by a man screaming, with the blade of a large knife (the largest in a block set) pressed into his chest.
“Upon seeing me and hearing my calls to drop the knife he forced the knife straight into his own chest.
“At this time I deployed a full cannister of capsicum spray into his face that had no effect. He then felt for the hole in his chest with his fingers and began to re-insert the knife.”
Todd took his partner’s capsicum spray and again shot the full cannister into the man’s face. Again it had not effect and the man forced the blade back into his chest, breaking off about three centimetres of the blade.
“He continued to scream and picked up a second smaller knife and made threats with it. He then attempted to severe his own hand at which time he fell to his knees after slipping on the heavily bloodied floor.
“Upon seeing this I entered the dwelling and struck him with a small baton, forcing the knife free from his grip. I then slid him along the floor to the outside onto the verandah where we attempted to handcuff him.”
A fight ensued during which the man and Todd slipped over in all the blood and the man landed on top of him.
“I struck him several times to the face to get him off me and as we got back to our feet he produced another large knife from the waistband of his tracksuit pants.
“We continued to negotiate with him until the arrival of our cover crew at 6am which, by chance, had a trained negotiator in it.
“Shortly after he succumbed to his injuries and was flown to Brisbane for surgery which he survived, due mainly to his thick woolen clothing and the knife blade sealing the wound that he had inflicted.”
Todd said that his nomination for the bravery award was unusual in that it came from two sources - the Officer in Charge of his station and two Inspectors from Ethical Standards who conducted an internal investigation of the incident.
“Obviously the man was heavily affected by alcohol and speed, hence his superior
strength and tolerance to pain,” Todd said.
“Now that Tasers are issued in Queensland this incident would most likely have been resolved within seconds of arriving.”
“That is about it in a nutshell. I am not sure that it is that newsworthy but ... I know that it means a great deal to my parents and grandparents.”
The bravery award, called a Commissioner’s Certificate of Noteable Action, was presented to Todd last year.
For the past two years the Senior Constable has been working as a Scenes of Crime Officer within the Forensic section of the Toowoomba Policing District.
He and Kerrin have three children, two of them under four years old, and Todd admitted to enjoying the quieter life off the beat.