Ex-bikie speaks about controversial cop program
A former bikie has spoken out for the first time about his experience with Queensland Police Service's controversial Exit Program.
In an exclusive interview, John (not his real name), is the first participant to speak directly to the media after the program's interviews with former bikie members were released.
He said he wanted to remain anonymous because he still had "a lot of enemies".
"A few years ago, I got involved in something and ended up in jail and there was no support for me," he told 7 News.
"I lost my family, I lost my kids to child services and there was nobody there to pick me up.
"I was left on my own, there was no club there, no brotherhood there. So that was it. I turned my life around … and did it for my kids, so I can get my kids back."
After about 15 years in Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, it wasn't easy to break away from all he ever knew, but John says the Exit program had been a lifeline and hopes to soon start up his own business.
"Yeah, I was on parole and my parole officer mentioned it and I was still a bit funny about the police business because it takes a lot to get out of your system, how you think once you leave the club," he said.
"And two police officers who are running it, they reached out to me, explained what was going on, helped me get some counselling which really helped me with my PTSD, the way I was thinking, because it's hard to break away from one world to come to normality, to actually live how you should be."
The Courier-Mail last month revealed the Exit program featured two former bikies who allegedly continued to reoffend, including one who had bashed and allegedly strangled his pregnant partner after the documentary was filmed but before it was released.
Queensland Police later quietly took offline the promotional videos about the two ex-bikies amid public backlash.
QPS Detective Superintendant Roger Lowe said the program already has 25 participants.
"Exit is, to learn from these people who have made mistakes, to shape people's lives for the better and also to give an opportunity for those people to resurrect their life, to become better in their relationships, more productive into the future," Det Supt. Lowe said.
"If we can get those people back into employment instead of back into a gang, that's a significant win for them and the Queensland community."
Supt. Lowe said there was plenty of interest from police in other states and New Zealand who were watching to see how the program progressed with a view of possibly implementing it themselves.
"The 25 that have become involved in the program are all ex-Queensland outlaw motorcycle gangs from 10 different clubs, and some of these people had office bearer positions. Some of these people have been to jail for their crimes and have gone 'I need assistance' and 'I don't want to be involved in crime or causing harm, how do I move forward?'. That's what the program's about."
The AFP's National Anti-Gangs Squad is supportive of the program, which also involves former bikies having their tattoos removed and enrolled in business courses to facilitate a legitimate and fulfilling source of income.
"We're really proud of the work that we've done with Queensland Police in relation to their Exit Program … because that means that we don't have to dedicate resources to investigating and prosecuting them down the track.
"It's a really large part of our work and we're really excited by some of the progress the project by the Queensland Police has made."
Supt McArthur says Exit is a "valuable tool" and there is a market.
"I think the combination of reasons for people joining gangs is quite varied, but I think it comes from, in part, some of the glamorisation and glorification you see on the Instagram accounts, where you see OMCG members with a beautiful woman and a fast car and heaps of cash and a luxury lifestyle," he said.
"That's not really an accurate representation of what general life is like in gangs."
John agrees, saying most bikies now don't even ride bikes.
When asked why anyone should believe he's serious about turning over a new leaf, John acknowledges he'll never convince everyone, but he'll continue to try.
"Every day I come across people who don't believe that I've changed," he said.
"So I guess it's just a matter of time and to just keep walking the way I'm walking, to show that lifestyle's done with me. I don't know how I'm going to convince people yes or no on that one. It's just a matter of doing it. I guess I'm going to face that the rest of my life.
"People are going to judge me and think 'he hasn't changed, look at the tattoos', but that's what you sign up for when you join a bike club."
Watch 7 News tonight at 6pm for the full story.
Originally published as Ex-bikie speaks about controversial cop program