The undercover ex-cop who writes to conquer his nightmares
He loved it, but the problem was, when he went back to the daily police, he missed the undercover work at the pant seat. âI needed to rediscover that addictive adrenaline rush. Fear and euphoria are blood brothers; that’s what drives the risk. I should have been careful what I wanted.
In 1982, the Queensland Emergency Squad consisted of 50 full-time police officers who trained part-time to respond to sieges, terrorist attacks and armed offenders.
It was the kind of crazy job that suited alpha cops like Banks. Soon he found a soul mate in Peter Kidd. Both understood that the squad would soon follow Victoria’s Special Operations Group to become a full-time strike force and they wanted to go downstairs.
In their first practice session, Kidd said he would apply for a full time job and Keith replied, âDude, I’ll be right behind you. They shook hands over their private pact.
By 1984, the squad, now called the Tactical Response Group, worked full time, with Kidd and Banks being the first to walk through the gate – as they would be in the many raids that followed.
Banks was in his element but soon learned that the greatest risk came from senior officers with inferiority complexes. The team was tasked with protecting “Rocky”, a mafia cannabis cultivator who became a star witness in a murder trial.
Banks loved Rocky and closed his eyes when he smoked drugs: “To a crook, he was a cute little guy.” Rocky testified at the jail hearing “like a pro” and then a deputy commissioner stepped in to reduce security in order to save money.
Rocky, now knowing he was expendable, called his mother, who told him the Mafia had reached out to say that if he didn’t testify he would be safe.
Banks knew it was a horrible mistake but couldn’t change Rocky’s mind. The last time he saw him was at the bus station in front of the police headquarters: âWe shook hands and said goodbye.
A few months later, the Mafia men who promised Rocky a free pass took him to Italy for a vacation. His body was found with two bullets in the back of his neck.
In July 1987, the team were tasked with arresting Paul Mullin, Queensland’s most wanted and dangerous man. Mullin had escaped from Long Bay Prison in Sydney in 1977 and survived, largely by robbing banks.
Finally, we learned that he lived in a house in the suburbs of Brisbane, Virginia.
Banks and his team considered the options, deciding on a break-in raid from the back of the house. Mullin was heavily armed and ready to shoot, and there were three potential hostages – including two children – in the house.
Banks knew speed and surprise were their best hope, which is why he planned to use tear gas and distraction grenades to grab Mullin before he could take the children hostage.
But when presented to senior police officials, the operation was approved without the use of gas and stun grenades. The changes were made after police knew Mullin’s guns were more powerful than theirs.
There was another curious request. Usually the police who are planning and carrying out the raid are in control of its timing. However, for this operation, Banks had no options. The raid was to be carried out the next day.
That week in July, the Fitzgerald Inquiry – which uncovered corruption and led to the imprisonment of Queensland Police Reptilian Commissioner Terry Lewis – held its first public hearings.
Banks believes that even though he was denied distraction grenades, the timing of the raid was designed to distract from negative headlines.
What better way to get Fitzgerald off the front page than to smash a door and grab Queensland’s most wanted? It worked, but in the worst possible way.
The banks chose two teams. Peter Kidd was not selected from the initial group, but after an officer had to step down, Banks agreed that Kidd would be the first to walk through the door. “I made the decision that would haunt me for the next 25 years,” Banks writes.
They were wearing protective vests that they knew couldn’t stop a bullet from Mullin’s military-grade .223 semi-automatic Ruger rifle. Kidd had written a detailed report recommending an upgrade to the ballistic vests. It was postponed for budgetary reasons.
When they barged in, Kidd opened the door to the master bedroom to find a naked, cocked Mullin ready to shoot. Kidd and another officer were shot before Mullin was killed by Banks and the team when they retaliated.
Banks went to Kidd and ripped off his jacket to see four entry wounds. He could only hold her hand and try to comfort his dying companion. ” I could not do anything. “
He goes back to his work, hiding his anxiety by drinking until he faints, waking up and then resuming his duty. “There was no doubt that I was a changed man, and not in a positive wayâ¦ I was paralyzed with guilt for letting Pete participate in the raid.”
Banks’ natural calm quickly angered and made a promise to himself. “I was never going to give anyone the chance to drop their gun.” If they even looked like they were pointing it at someone, they were dead.
Banks now knows that during those dark days he volunteered for dangerous jobs, hoping he would find himself in a fatal confrontation. He resumed smoking dope, weeping in private while publicly portraying himself as the armed expert ready for anything.
Two years after seeing his companion shot, Banks left the Task Force, but he was not done with armed offenders.
Six years after shooting Mullin, Banks entered the Brisbane MLC building to deal with a man armed with a rifle, hand grenade, 16 sticks of gelignite and three detonators. The policeman who had wanted to kill spent 90 minutes persuading the man to surrender.
Banks received two Valor Awards, for the Mullin Raid and the MLC Building Headquarters.
For Banks, it was time to quit the police. He was recruited by ex-Victorian armed robbery team detective Mark Wylie, who had become an executive of Myer.
Wylie and Banks had a lot in common. Both had troubled childhoods and became idealistic cops only to be traumatized by shootings.
Wylie was shot while leading a raid for one of the Russell Street bombing suspects in 1986. Due to a shortage, he was not wearing a waistcoat when he was shot. In 2014, he committed suicide.
For banks, writing Head gun was a difficult and cathartic experience. He’s done with the police, but the police aren’t done with him.
Mentally he’s in a better place, but PTSD is not a disease that passes over time. He retreats into a black hole to emerge when he sees an opportunity.
For Banks, this takes the form of a recurring nightmare. He is armed and sees the offender. “I aim at my enemy and pull the trigger, but it’s locked in place … The gun is useless and I’m helpless … My mind goes back all these years and there’s no more. sleep for me.
âDreams are fewer nowadays but come spontaneously, just like waves of sadness that come and go without cause or remedy.
âThis is the dark legacy of PTSD. “
Head gun by Keith Banks is published by Allen & Unwin.
For help or information, call Suicide Helpline Victoria on 1300 651 251 or Lifeline on 131 114, or visit beyondblue.org.au