Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW
Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW

Police chief superintendent advises students on living the good life

Peter Cotter

Detective Chief Superintendent Peter Cotter APM of the NSW Police Force, offered Warrane residents some suggestions on how to avoid getting into serious trouble in their future lives when he spoke at the College on 9 September 2013.

A Commander Homicide who specialises in violent crime and oversees 500 other detectives, Detective Cotter shared some of his experiences dealing with many of the most horrific cases that the Police Force has had to handle and explained how it was that many people get into trouble with the law.

He encouraged students to always strive to act ethically. He also urged them to expand their network of friends as far and widely as possible.

“Meet people,” he told his listeners in Warrane’s Main Common Room. “You live or die by the relationships you make both in professional life and and in private life.”.

Integrity, he said, was “a way of life, 24/7”.

“Be true to yourself. Make sure that you can look at yourself in the mirror and be proud of who you are.”

Among the tips he gave residents were to always drink responsibly, to drive responsibly and to avoid gambling at all costs.

“Gambling? Get rid of that,” he said. “It can cost you everything.”

He explained that 95 percent of the people he had arrested on stealing charges had gambling debts and some had even been prepared to burn down their family home for the insurance money, even though it meant endangering family members.

He said anyone who developed a gambling problem should seek out professional help straight away.

Other suggestions included keeping fit by taking part in regular sport or exercise. “It doesn’t matter what you do, whether you run, swim, play a game or whatever, the main thing is to look after yourself and exercise regularly,” he said. “It will keep you healthy and focused.”

Regarding the much publicised crime of child abuse, both violent and sexual, he pointed out that despite media emphasis on staying safe in public places, most child abuse occurred in the home. This was something that was not widely known because it tended to be a “taboo subject”, but there were around 4,.500 cases each year.

Superintendent Cotter also emphasised the importance of family life. He said that he and his wife had four children and had managed to remain together despite pressures in police work that had led to many divorces. “Family life is what you all have to look forward to,” he said.

He said his Catholic faith had also been a cornerstone of his life and that he attended church regularly. “Call in and say g’day,” he advised. “That’s a prayer in itself I reckon.”

Asked during the question-and-answer session to comment on the worst types of crime he had encountered, Superintendent Cotter nominated rape, especially gang rape, child abuse and armed robbery.

How did he view the reliability of the jury system? He said on the whole he felt it worked very well. “It’s the best we have, though it is not perfect,” he said.

He said that sometimes there were problems because some evidence was not allowed to be presented to the court. Despite this, judges generally got things right.

In his closing remarks, Superintendent Cotter emphasised that many young people get into trouble because of the illusion that they are “bulletproof”. He told the students present that they were living in a “beautiful state of ignorance” and that it would not be until they were older that they would become aware of the extent of the dangers involved with some of their behaviour..

“Pinch yourself and give yourself a reality check,” he advised.

[Warrane College offers more than just accommodation to students at UNSW: Details of other guest speakers are available here]