Police Association remembers first president Frank Heaney

Published by Whitehorse Leader on June 25, 2019

The first president of Victoria’s Police Association, who died fighting to improve police officers’ rights and working conditions, has been celebrated and remembered at a ceremony in Burwood.

Inspector Francis Lawrence Heaney was running an association meeting on achieving a pay increase and restoration of the police pension when he collapsed and died of heart failure on October 17, 1917.

The 56-year-old had just led a deputation of association members to the office of the Victorian Chief Secretary, where he had argued for recognition of police officers’ work in the community.

Speaking at a commemorative ceremony at Burwood Cemetery on June 25, Association president John Laird said Insp Heaney’s death at the board table had been a “tragedy” for the association.

He said the president had been “ironically” replying to a board member’s question about the practice surrounding a member’s death when he collapsed.

“The association had only been formed in 1917 and Frank had been elected president after some strident work in the face of … government opposition to the creation of the police association,” he said.

Senior Sergeant Laird said then Chief Commissioner had dubbed Insp Heaney “one of his best officers in Victoria Police at the time of his death”.

“In his capacity as inaugural president of the Police Association, he sacrificed himself and his family to focus on the needs and concerns of his members,” Sen-Sgt Laird said.

Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton also reflected on Insp Heaney’s “sacrifice for the community” at the ceremony, saying the president and his team established “the forerunner, to what is today, easily the best Police Association in the country”.

“Having died at a police association meeting, working on terms and conditions for police members, I think typified his service,” Mr Ashton said.

Mr Ashton, who is a member of the Police Association, highlighted the importance of the body in strengthening Victoria Police.

He said on “many, many occasions” he had been grateful the association had raised issues with policy or safety that Victoria Police had missed or overlooked.

On the day of his burial, a cortege of hundreds of people marched Insp Heaney from his home on Power St, Hawthorn, to his resting place in Burwood Ceremony.

His casket was led by a riderless horse, accompanied by a bodyguard of senior officers and followed by the police band, 50 mounted troopers, members of the police association and 300 constables.

Trams travelling towards the cemetery were specially reserved for officers attending the service.

The Police Association has refurbished Insp Heaney’s grave, almost 102 years after his death.

Burwood Heights Primary School students joined officers to sing the National Anthem at the restored grave’s unveiling.

Retired detective chief inspector and Victoria Police historian, Ralph Stavely, said the association had tried to invite Insp Heaney’s descendants to the event, but investigators had been unable to get in contact with them.