Police target award-winning journalist — again

 

I always imagined myself to be a militant warrior in a situation like this.

Having observed so much of the filmed injustice in the United States and Australia recently, I had a warped sense of my own courage - if ever I was confronted unfairly by police, I'd have my phone out, asking questions, demanding answers.

It's what I do for a living - have done since I became a journalist 18 years ago.

Walkley Award-winning sports journalist Jamie Pandaram with his shopping receipts.
Walkley Award-winning sports journalist Jamie Pandaram with his shopping receipts.

But now, surrounded by three NSW Police officers demanding to see receipts to prove I'd paid for my groceries at Marrickville Metro, I'm ashamed to say I froze.

By the time I'd been shown their badges, told I was being recorded, surrounded in a way that I was cornered, and asked to produce receipts for each item in my grocery bag, I was too stunned to talk, let alone whip out my phone and record this encounter.

By the time I'd snapped out of my shock and thought about videoing this search, I feared that would unnecessarily escalate the situation, and so I calmly explained I'd been to three different shops, and provided them the receipts.

But what concerns me most is that this is not normally my habit.

When the self-serve machine asks if I want to print out a receipt, nine times out of 10 I reject it and walk off, pleased to be saving the paper and helping the environment.

There was no particular reason I did choose to print out the receipts today, suffice to say I'll be eternally grateful for my decision.

Jamie had just finished buying his groceries at Woolworths Marrickville Metro when he was surrounded by three police officers. Picture: Dallas Kilponen
Jamie had just finished buying his groceries at Woolworths Marrickville Metro when he was surrounded by three police officers. Picture: Dallas Kilponen

It was a craving for a steak and salad dinner that got me into this mess.

Working from home has a few perks, including being able to duck into the shops at noon to grab dinner ingredients before returning to the work station in the lounge.

I went to Metro and visited Aldi first, picking up butter lettuce, then to the brilliant deli next door for fresh rosemary.

I checked out the butcher, but decided I'd get my steak from Woolworths.

After picking up my steak and a bottle of one of my favourite discoveries this year - Baconnaise, smoky bacon flavoured mayonnaise - I went to the self-serve counter, put the items through, paid with my credit card, loaded my bag and took my receipt.

As I began to walk out I was confronted by a woman in plain clothes, who flashed her badge and told me she was "Sergeant" someone, the situation too bizarre to recall the name.

She explained they were doing checks to make sure people were paying for all of their groceries.

Suddenly, on my left, another woman - who I'd just earlier passed in an aisle - presented her badge.

They escorted me to a dining area of the nearby sushi shop, at which point a large man loomed up behind me, the third officer.

They asked me to hand them the receipts. They examined the receipts and grocery items line by line. The first officer asked the second if her list added up, and then with that, said "Thanks mate" and walked off.

Police at Marrickville Metro investigating an armed robbery in 2014.
Police at Marrickville Metro investigating an armed robbery in 2014.


It took a few minutes before the shock turned to boiling anger.

It was 10 years ago that I was pulled over by police in Redfern and asked if the car I was driving belonged to me.

That day, just like today, I was wearing a baseball cap.

I have the greatest respect for the police, I applaud what they do and can only admire the strength they have to face danger on any given day to protect our community.

I just can't help but think that despite what I've achieved in my career or how I conduct myself as a person, at first glance I may appear suspicious to some.

I deliberated for some time as to whether I'd raise this issue, but I'm delighted I did.

The feedback from friends and strangers was resoundingly supportive and uplifting.

Not a single white person who contacted me had ever been asked by police if they owned the car they're driving, or to show receipts for their groceries, and were outraged on my behalf.

It shows me the overwhelming majority of Australians are aware of casual racism and eager to stamp it out.

And it highlights to me that as well-intentioned as I may be about saving the planet, I will never again forget to print out shopping receipts.

Jamie Pandaram is a Walkley Award-winning Daily Telegraph sports reporter

Originally published as Police target award-winning journalist - again


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