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From Shanghai to the Melbourne police beat

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Kenny Lin's story is an unusual one. He chose a career path different from a lot of other Chinese migrants living in Australia - a police officer.

Being able to take risks, having a good command of the English language, and a sound understanding of the Australian legal and judicial system are among the reasons this profession often discourages first-generation migrants like Kenny.

Kenny works at a mid-size police station in a Melbourne bayside suburb, overlooking nice beaches. It is also a suburb known for its local drug scene.

As the only Chinese police officer at the station, he is often asked why he decided to join the force.

"I personally think that social work is the best way to understand a place, its customs and culture, as well as the social structure. So I became a police officer. The experience has been invaluable for me," says Kenny.

Kenny is originally from Shanghai, and came to Australia to study commerce at the Australian National University in Canberra.

In 2013 when working at a finance firm, he decided to make a radical change in his life, going for something "outside of the box". He said his decision was carefully thought through.

"Policing means shiftwork, 24 hour rotations, and it requires a lot from your physical strength [and] language proficiency.

"You need to be a good communicator as well as involved in the legal proceedings, such as, collecting evidence, giving evidence at court, writing reports and other tasks that are also very language-heavy."

Kenny Lin (right) working alongside his Melbourne colleagues.
Kenny Lin (right) working alongside one of his station colleagues.

ABC: Xiaoning Mo

Kenny grew up watching a lot of cop shows, and these made him think that being a police officer was only about catching bad guys.

"It is quite different in Australia, as it is a completely different judicial system to China. Policing is simply another regular profession and I am now more aware of its social role," Kenny says.

Influenced by his upbringing in China, Kenny has adjusted his perception of police as a profession, and has learnt to approach it with fresh eyes.

"My superior always reiterates: 'You have to return home every day in one piece without losing any limbs. This is very important.'"

Apart from patrolling the streets, police also need to be prepared for any emergencies, and are expected to work overtime and night shifts.

Once a case is reported, evidence must be collected, as well as more investigating taking place, and monitoring detainees before appearing in court. It also means constantly being across new developments in the legal system, as well as technology and firearms.

Kenny had to go through a rigorous process to become a police officer.

In Kenny's own words, he needs to "hold a pen as well as a gun, becoming a master of all".

"I submitted my application back in 2013 and I waited for more than a year. There were tests afterwards, both physical and psychological. I had to go through a lot before the final interview. There was also [a] very thorough background check. Inquiries were made about my previous work and my friends."

After being thoroughly evaluated, Kenny was accepted into the Victorian police force. He then spent 10 months in the police academy for intense training.

"Training was not dissimilar to going to university. It was a 7-to-5 routine. We had different courses, for example the multicultural component of the curriculum, teaching us how to communicate with people from a culturally and linguistically diverse background. There was basic legal training as well," says Kenny.

Those 10 months were very intense. His family tried to dissuade him to continue but he chose otherwise. Giving up was not an option for him.

Serving the Chinese community

Kenny chatting with local residents during his patrol.
Kenny chatting with local residents during his patrol.

ABC: Kai Feng

As a police officer from China, Kenny would like to better serve the Chinese community, facilitating the communication between the local Chinese community and the police force.

"We did notice an increase in the crime rate in Victoria which was due to a combination of factors. The Chinese community needs to be vigilant and always ring 000 in the first instance when something happens. Some Chinese local media said it was useless to file a report and this is absolutely wrong."

Kenny encourages more people from the Chinese community to join the police force and contribute to maintaining the security and safety of the state of Victoria.

He has learnt a lot as a police officer, and encountered interesting people and events along the way. It is definitely a rewarding job for him despite its many challenges.

Translated by Grace Feng, also available in Chinese.

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