Policing has changed greatly in the 31 years Chief Inspector John Sheehan has lived and worked in Goulburn.
These days it's much more proactive and officers are greatly involved in the community.
He shared the reflections on the eve of leaving Goulburn Police Station after 25 years working on an off in the local command.
He and wife, Dianne, are moving to Batemans Bay for "a seachange." There, Chief Inspector Sheehan will become District Inspector, looking after human resources and professional standards.
As he explained, there was no better time to make the move.
"I've spent a lot of time working with police and being away from home over the years so my wife and I decided on a seachange," he said.
He joined the police in 1988 at Marrickville. The self-confessed country boy from Grenfell had always harboured an ambition to join the mounted police, having grown up with horses.
That changed quickly once posted to Goulburn soon after.
"General duties has always been the backbone of what I wanted to do," he said.
"...You get a wide gamut (of experiences). It's something different every day and you get to meet a lot of the community through good times and bad. Since we moved to the officer in charge model (two years ago), you get to be the face of the town and go to meetings and meet people. You get to know what the community wants and what they expect of police and try to deliver on that."
Constable and then Senior Constable Sheehan also served in highway patrol, crash investigation and as a plain clothes officer for a year. He was promoted to Sergeant at Queanbeyan where he also worked and became an Inspector at Young in 2007 before returning to Goulburn, also as Inspector.
He said he'd been fortunate that fatal crashes had not had a personal impact but told The Post it was always difficult when it was someone he knew.
"Back then, Goulburn was a lot quiter and smaller," Chief Inspector Sheehan said.
"We had no bypass or freeway and it was all single lane road, so the majority of our jobs were on the highway with accidents around the Cullerin Ranges and Lake George. I spent a lot of time with fatal accidents.
"That's all changed with the bypass and we don't have the trucks going through town, which is a good thing. The freeway has connected us with Canberra and Sydney and we're only 90 minutes from the South Coast."
As part of the Police Rescue squad for five years, he took part in many rescues, including an eight-hour operation at Bungonia Gorge where he abseiled 40 metres to help retrieve two people trapped in a cave.
Chief Inspector Sheehan also started the police bicycle squad in Goulburn, before it was formalised, and was a weapons trainer for 10 years.
He says he and other officers stationed here are fortunate to have access to a wide variety of training through the NSW Police Academy.
He also credits Police Commissioner Mick Fuller and Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys with shifting the focus to community-based policing.
"Gary has had crime and community as his ethos for many years and it's continued on," Chief Inspector Sheehan said.
"We were being reactive and we've changed it to being proactive in targeting offenders we know have committed crimes, as well as being involved in the community.
"Twenty years ago we weren't really involved in the community. Now we're really focused on it and realise we need community based policing because a lot of information comes from it."
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Chief Inspector Sheehan said many officers did off duty deeds for people and groups that largely went unseen.
In the same vein, he praises the work of the area's non-government agencies in working with police to address youth and domestic violence issues and says it's making a big difference to crime levels.
As he prepared to set sail on a new chapter, Chief Inspector Sheehan said Goulburn had always been lucky that crime was relatively low. Police also had a high conviction rate and there were few offences that went unsolved.
Hume Police District Commander Chris Schilt said Chief Inspector Sheehan has had a major impact on staff and the wider community.
"He's a pretty unique police officer I've worked with," he said.
"I say that because I've never come across anyone so efficient and who has the ability to just get things done.
"...I've been really impressed that whenever we've had big jobs, John has filled me with confidence that whenever he goes out to them, he resolves them. He knows who to speak to to get the job done."
Superintendent Schilt said Chief Inspector Sheehan was also very protective and caring of his staff and his departure would leave a big hole.
Matthew Hinton, formerly of Yass, will replace him.
Chief Inspector Sheehan will take up his new role on Monday and says he's looking forward to the challenge.
"(But) Goulburn will always be my home. My family and my wife's family live here so we'll be returning regularly," he said.
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