A volunteer firefighter kicked out of the Albion Park brigade after a dispute with his fellow firies repeatedly lied to his superiors about being a crack NSW Police officer to bolster his chances of being reinstated to his position.
Steven Smith, 42, spun an incredible web of lies over five months last year, boasting to local bosses that he was a serving NSW Police officer who had been a member of the force’s elite gangs squad unit, Strike Force Raptor.
He claimed he’d been undercover in the Comancheros, played an integral role in busting local bikie gangs in Albion Park and Dapto, and had been a “tactical officer” directly involved in the police response to the 2014 Lindt Cafe siege.
He told RFS members he’d been unable to reveal his true employment earlier so as not to “blow his cover”.
Court documents said Smith’s deceit began in late July 2017 when he turned up to the Illawarra Fire Control Centre wearing a shirt with the NSW Police Force insignia while on restrictive duties with the Remote Area Fire Team.
He told Inspector Michael Gray he’d spent all night at a shooting at Central Railway Station and that he’d been “in the force for years”..
A few days later, he told another RFS official, Paul Scott, that he was a current serving police officer working undercover with motorcycle gangs.
Meantime, Smith boasted to several volunteers about the apparent highlights of the job while deployed to fight fires in Canada in August.
“One of the best parts of being undercover is knocking down doors and knee-capping people with shotguns,” he said.
“I’ve put away a lot of bikies and busted a lot of people with drugs.
“My last job was dealing with the local bikie gangs in Albion Park busting them with drugs and guns.
“I’ve been to jobs where I’ve thrown flashbangs into houses, gone rushing in knocking women and children out of the way to get to criminals.”
In September, Smith was at the fire control centre when he referred to a front page article in the Mercury about Strike Force Raptor raids at seven homes across the Illawarra.
“Have you seen the front page of the paper?” he told staff.
“That was our work. That was Raptor’s [work].”
However, Smith’s carefully crafted story began to unravel later that month when Inspector Gray told him he would need to confirm, then update his employment details for RFS records.
Smith, who was in ongoing talks about his dismissal from the Albion Park brigade and an injury that was preventing him from being on active fire duty, promised to speak to his boss about it.
He also voiced concerns about his dismissal at the time, saying “I’m a senior constable with the NSW Police Force. I’ve been in the job for several years. I’ve been undercover working with Strike Force Raptor”.
In December, Smith met with Inspector Gray again to discuss his position at the brigade, at which time he handed over a medical certificate to clear him for active duty.
“I’m back at work, back on the truck kicking doors in,” Smith said.
“The police have no worries or concerns for my return, they’re happy for me to resume full duty.”
Subsequent investigations revealed the certificate had been faked and that Smith had never worked for the NSW Police Force as an officer or a civilian employee.
Officers raided Smith’s home in February, recovering the t-shirt featuring the police insignia, along with a cap with the same emblem.
They also seized military items including a jacket and beret with the SAS insignia.
Smith was arrested in February and charged with impersonating a police officer and producing a false document.
He pleaded guilty to both charges in Wollongong Local Court this week but was unsuccessful in having his case dismissed under mental health legislation, despite tendering reports from treating psychologists confirming he was suffering from a range of mental health issues at the time.
In refusing the application, Magistrate Peter Thompson said he could find no causal connection between Smith’s offending and his mental health conditions.
“There’s a community interest that these matters are dealt with according to law,” he said.
However, he did agree not to record a criminal conviction against Smith on both charges, instead placing him on an 18-month good behaviour bond.