Constable Ethan Sorby of Crestmead Police Station had a challenging start to life.
His parents both struggled with drug addiction, and when he was a young boy, he lost his step-siblings in a car crash as his father was on his way to buy drugs.
Another half-sibling had mental health issues and there times where his life was nearly cut short due to mental health episodes within the home.
His childhood was characterised by movement. There were many different homes – sometimes the whole family moved, other homes were places of temporary refuge from domestic violence, and on occasions, he was separated from his family to live with foster carers.
Life eventually stabilised, but engaging with his education wasn’t on his list of priorities until he was fortunate to meet someone who could cut through the chaos.
“As you can imagine a pretty wayward kid. It was not surprising my report cards noted I had problems with authority. When I was about 15 or 16, a School Based Police Officer in Victoria-Terry Woodcroft-started talking to me,” Constable Sorby said.
“Instead of focussing on enforcement and punishment, he came at things from a completely different perspective. He made me reflect on how my actions affected others and instilled some autonomy into how I reacted to complex issues.
“Terry helped me find alternative ways to respond to situations and then gave me positive reinforcement when I did. This had a massive influence,” he said.
The police officer and a career advisor spotted potential leadership qualities in the teenager and took him to the Victorian police academy to try out the obstacle course. Constable Sorby smashed the course, beating the recruits in training at the time.
Although he was too embarrassed to wear the police T-shirt the officer gave him, the idea had taken root. He said he was 18 when he applied-unsuccessfully-to be a police officer in Victoria.
“I was sick of seeing so many in my circle of friends become victims, either through their own actions or the actions of others. Deciding to become a police officer was a way of rebelling against the constant norms,” Constable Sorby said.
“I applied, but I was too focussed on the fear of failure. I got stuck on a maths question and failed the exam.
“It hurt. I figured policing was not for me after all, and it was many years before I tried again.”
Change was again a constant in his life over the following years as he tried his hand at different jobs, relationships, houses, and even states. Eventually he settled into a permanent relationship in Queensland, with both he and his partner craving stability and a better life.
The sphere of policing beckoned again, and he became involved with the Police-Citizens Youth Club (PCYC) where two police officers, Rachel Whitford and Kevlynn Janz, began to have a powerful influence on his life.
“I started running break dancing classes, and then participating in running community youth development programs and mentoring others. I then moved into crime prevention work.
“As part of this, I helped run state leadership programs and some of it started to rub off on myself. I practiced a lot of what I preached.”
At age 26, he felt he was ready to consider policing again as a career. Once his mentors realised he was serious, they first offered guidance about the realities of the job and then wrote him references.
There was plenty of work to do, with spades of patience and persistence required.
He needed to improve his abilities in mathematics, pattern recognition and logical thinking, and achieved this via online tutoring, repeated self testing and commitment toward these goals.
Knowing there would be things he would experience on the job that could be triggering, he learned techniques to disassociate personal experiences. He came to acknowledge the importance of mindfulness, self care and investments in family and loved ones outside of work to bolster mental health and resilience.
Finally, he needed to convince recruiters that a six-year-old knee injury would not hamper his ability to be a police officer.
“There were so many hoops to jump through, but I did the background work and eventually made it through.
“There was no way I was ready at age 18. I had to have many more life experiences, and now I can help others so much more when they are having crises.
“My life experiences combined with my police training help me know the right things to say and do when people are having a crisis. I’ve learned how to help them find their voice and influence them to make the right decisions.”
Constable Sorby said he was fortunate to be able to work with young people in the Logan District through programs such as Blue Edge, Adopt-a-Cop and Youth Co-Responder Teams.
“There were plenty of things I wish hadn’t happened in my life. If people had stepped in at those times, my journey could have been so much easier,” he said.
“When the right people did step in, they changed the trajectory of my life. Now I want to be that person for others.”
The Queensland Police Service is recruiting real life experience to help make a real difference.
Every bit of adversity you’ve overcome. Every challenge, every tight spot. Every hit or miss. From your proudest moments, to your toughest times, in this line of work, your life experiences are your greatest assets.
There’s never been a better time to join the QPS at policerecruit.com.au.
You’re already ready.