Bruce Lyon’s long and varied career in the Police Force has taken him far and wide, including a number of years on the North Coast. He reflects on his experiences following his recent return.
How long have you been in the Police Force?
I have been in the Police Force for almost 37 years, joining when I was 19 years of age.
It has been a wonderful education in life, having seen the depths of despair of families and communities, to being involved in communities which have done so many courageous deeds for the simple but important outcome of making the place where we live a better and safer place.
My first posting as a young cop was in Regent Street Police Station in Sydney. My first arrest was when I was walking the beat on my own and arrested this poor old fellow for drunkenness. I decided I could walk him back to the police station, which was some several kilometres away; that was my first mistake.
I ended up in a rolly polly on the ground with him in the middle of Railway Square and causing a traffic jam in the middle of peak hour! I soon learnt to use my police radio and ask for assistance, to have the police truck come to my aid before things became worse than they had to.
I spent only about 18 months in uniform and then found myself training to become a detective. I remained in major crime for some 25 years, investigating drug crime and organised crime at state, national and international level. I spent some periods performing duty overseas. In 1997 I left the CIB and spent 2 years as the Crime Manager on the Mid North Coast, and then for the past 11 years I have been the Commander of both the New England Command, 2000 to 2004, and the Richmond command, based at Lismore, from 2004 to 2010.
I returned to the New England in December 2010.
How does it feel to be back in Armidale?
It is wonderful to be back in the New England area. There are lots of new young police in the command from when I was here before. They really do a great job – lots of things that the general public are unaware of. When I see police officers dealing with tragedy and families in absolute despair, I feel so proud of what they achieve. I do believe young police underestimate their importance to community; that is one of the reasons I stress upon them that relationships with communities are so important.
While walking the beat seems a thing of the past, it is the best way to communicate with the public, hear what they have to say and gain their trust and respect. There are so many people out there who want to help the police; we just have to tap into them.
I will look forward to working with community leaders again – our mayors, who are a great support to us, and of course, Richard Torbay. We really did some good things together – I owe a lot to him for extra police being assigned to the command, a new police station at Armidale and major refurbishments to Inverell, Glen Innes and Tenterfield police stations. I guess there will be many challenges ahead, but I am more than confident we have a good team of officers and a helping community to make it all happen.
How is the new Armidale police station?
The new police station at Armidale is quite fantastic – very functional, and it provides a really healthy workplace. I think back to the old station and remember the ordinary conditions that police had to work in; we were on no short list to get a new police station. I remember emailing the then commissioner Ken Moroney and saying I was going to begin lobbying to get a new station. He simply said, “Best of luck, Bluey.” That was enough encouragement for me.
I then strapped myself to the coat tails of Richard Torbay – I visited Parliament with him on so many occasions, knocking on Minister’s doors, pleading our case. The tenacity of Richard was really something; the end result was a new police station. I publicly thank Mr Torbay for simply making it happen.
Describe your typical day at work …
My typical day … start work anytime between 6am and 8am. I get a briefing on what occurred overnight and what followup action is required. I will be informed of arrests. I will make sure no Police have been hurt / injured and if they have been, I will contact them and if need be, visit them. I will often have discussions / meetings with mayors, chambers of commerce, members of parliament.
I will have what seems to be an endless amount of correspondence to answer. If required, I will do media interviews. I will often get briefed on the progress of ongoing operations into major crime that may be happening in the command. I try to visit a different police station in the command at least twice a week. I often go for a walk and talk to the community, act as a guest speaker at Rotary and the like, travel to Sydney etc. for meetings.
Plans for the future?
In every community there will always be those families who, for various reasons, come under the scrutiny of Police, Docs, Juvenile Justice, the Court System and are often supported by Mental Health authorities, Dept of Housing, Education etc.
Some of these families are common to all of those agencies and require a true integrated and co-ordinated response from those agencies. Too many times we deal with those families in our own silos. I really do believe there is an opportunity for representatives from each of the human service agencies to work together in the same office, open up their books, share the information and deal with families who are common to each of the agencies in an integrated and co-ordinated manner.
Thank you Bruce.