‘Kicking, screaming’: police officer forced to call it a day
HE isn't ready to call it a day on a job he has loved every second of, but the curtain will soon come down on the career of a dedicated police officer who always kept the community at the fore.
Lowood Police Station officer in charge Senior Sergeant Bruce Peel, known as Peelo, will finish up with the Queensland Police Service at the end of next week after 34 years.
Queensland police officers are required to retire at 60-years-old.
A bricklayer by trade, Snr Sgt Peel was convinced to join by good friend and late rugby league great Peter Jackson over a few beers in Caloundra.
"He was in the police at that time," Snr Sgt Peel said.
"Things were a bit tough … but I said I'm absolutely not interested.
"He came over and brought a form. He filled the whole lot out. All I did was sign it.
"Three weeks later I was interviewed and on May 5 (1986) I was in the academy and I've loved it ever since. Absolutely loved it."
The words of a former OIC, Mick Brennan, guided him throughout his career.
"He'd say 'remember Bruce we are a service to the community and if we look after the community when the chips are down, the community will look after us'," he said.
"Those words rang very, very true several times in my career.
"The community are only as good as the police and the police are only as good as the community.
"I've always immersed myself in stuff really. I love the community side of things."
It started in his first posting in Noosa Heads, where he spent the first year of his career.
"I started their golf day to raise money for police youth clubs," he said.
"We were trying to get one started up at Noosa at the time. We used to call the police paddy wagons pie carts.
"I spelt it 'pycart' which stood for police youth clubs are really terrific. That legacy lasted … it kept going for about 10 years."
Despite asking to be sent out west or up north next, Snr Sgt Peel was posted to Brisbane for Expo 88.
He walked the beat along Queen Street Mall with former officer and now Lockyer MP Jim McDonald.
Looking for somewhere new after four years, Mr McDonald suggested the Lockyer Valley.
He was posted to Laidley and felt at home straight away, with wife Karen working as a teacher in the area and their four kids growing up in the region.
"We really immersed ourselves in it," he said.
Snr Sgt Peel said during the mid-90s, the town was a "pretty wild and woolly old place" and officers were dealing with a lot of violence and juvenile issues.
"One fella and his mother ended up getting jail for six months … it was a highly unusual thing," he said.
"He was part of this pack of ratbags and there was an uproar and I approached them and ended up getting them all involved in touch footy in the local comp. They were abusing me and all sorts."
But as Monday night rolled around, they showed up and asked for a hand signing up.
"The team they played was my team, which had two or three coopers in it as well," Snr Sgt Peel said.
"They all thought they were fairly flash and we ended up beating them by three tries and it changed the town.
"It absolutely changed the town. It changed these guys.
"It was a great example of positive community engagement."
In 2004 Snr Sgt Peel was appointed as OIC to what was then called the state stock squad liaison unit, which was based in Brisbane.
After realising its positioning was rendering it "hopeless", Snr Sgt Peel instigated its move to Forest Hill and a boundary change to service east of the Toowoomba range.
"There's no way a cockie is going to travel into the middle of Brisbane to see us," he recalled.
After nine years with the stock squad, Snr Sgt peel spent time in Ipswich before becoming OIC of Lowood two years ago.
He took on the role after the tragic death of his dear friend Senior Sergeant Troy Dalton.
Reducing road trauma in the area, with the assistance of neighbouring stations and south east Queensland road policing units, was one of his proudest achievements.
"We had over 50 injury-related crashes in 2018 and that involved several fatal crashes," Snr Sgt Peel said.
"There were less than half the fatal crashes the next year and it reduced injury-related crashes significantly.
"This year, touch wood, we've had no fatal crashes."
He has been reminded of the legacy he is leaving behind on a pair of occasions in the past couple of months.
Snr Sgt Peel said two men who came to do work at the Lowood station both recognised him and credited him for setting them straight when they were younger.
"(One said) I changed his life," he said.
"He said 'you arrested me at 15 and gave me a huge talking to.'
"He was really tied up with some bad people. He said 'your words range in my ears so strongly that when I turned 18 I got myself out of the situation.'
"Every now and then you had to lock people up, it was the proverbial clip over the ear.
"I got more pleasure out of helping people get back on track than I ever did by locking them up."
Snr Sgt Peel said he was spoiled for choice in retirement and will spend more time working on his property in Mulgowie.
His cattle yards have needed some attention since 2010 and he plans to stay busy helping out his builder and farmer mates.
He is considering some local employment opportunities as well and once restrictions lift, plans to do some travel with wife Karen.
Despite going "kicking and screaming", he said he was coming to terms with the next stage in his life.
"I think 60 is too young (to retire)," he said.
"I really love what I'm doing, so in that respect I'm finding it really hard being forced to leave.
"But at the same time I'm accepting it and I have accepted it and I'm moving forward."
Read more stories by Lachlan McIvor.