For close to four decades Senior Constable Barry Harris's name has been synonymous with the Highway Patrol in the Mudgee region, becoming a kind of legendary figure in the process - with locals knowing "Barry is out there" - but last week he signed off for the final time.
The career of Snr Cst Harris was celebrated at Mudgee Police Station on Thursday.
Born in Dunedoo, the son of a policeman moved to a number of small towns growing up, which he said, "helped shape me and give me an understanding of a policeman's life". And fostered a love of police cars "albeit general duties".
Initially he worked as a builder in Wagga Wagga, before "deciding to follow in Dad's footsteps". First stationed at Ashfield, he transferred to Mudgee in 1982 - back at the old local Police Station, now a Council building closer to the CBD on Market Street - and transferred into the Highway Patrol in 1983.
"What is clearly apparent is that Barry has been a dedicated and professional police officer for over 39 years. And for 37 years that focus was around road safety, enforcement, and education," said Superintendent Paul Glinn, North West Traffic and Highway Patrol Commander, who was among those to laud his time.
"I understand that if anyone ever had any intentions of going out and doing the wrong thing in a car, there was always a concern around Mudgee that Barry would be nearby and he would do his upmost to hold them accountable for their poor driver behaviour. And I've got no doubt you've been instrumental in saving lives in this area along the way."
Harris's career has encapsulated almost the entire lifespan of the V8 Holden Commodore, a car which along with its counterpart from Ford were staples of the NSW Highway Patrol - although Barry did prefer the six-cylinder turbo Falcon. His "final steed of choice" was said to be the Chrysler 300 SRT, far more loved than the Mitsubishi Cordia of the 1980s which was mentioned multiple times as a vehicle that left much to be desired.
"Traffic policing and the way we used to do things over the years has changed a lot, the electronics the cars have fitted for one thing. But there's always going to be people out there in cars that'll do the wrong thing, that's never going to change, and we try to change people's perspective on driver attitude and getting it right," Harris said. "We don't get any satisfaction out of giving people big speeding tickets, but we do what we're required to do."
I'll still do my job as a retired police officer and I'll still drive accordingly, because I don't want to get a traffic fine - how embarrassing would that be?"Retired Senior Constable Barry Harris
Also in attendance was Retired Senior Sergeant Mal Unicomb, who's known Harris since 1983.
Having also known Barry on a personal level, Mr Unicomb acknowledged the role families play in an officer's life as those "who serve alongside us". And to Mrs Harris he said, "Cheryl we reluctantly but very proudly give you back your husband Barry and thank you for allowing him to serve".
Mr Unicomb also said "even when he wasn't at work, Barry still got the blame for people getting a ticket", such was his presence. Although the man himself said that reaching this kind of mythical status wasn't expected - he was performing his duties.
"I never came here all of those years ago to become a 'legend', which is what people have called me. Yes I've been here a long time and part of my duty is pulling someone over for a traffic offence and I've got to give them a penalty notice," he said.
"I'm sort of a salesman for something they really don't want. But in the end I did what I needed to do, I took an oath to do my job as diligently as I could.
"I was trained and I have trained other police here to do the same thing, be ever watchful, keep your wits about you, and expect the unexpected. I'll still do my job as a retired police officer and I'll still drive accordingly, because I don't want to get a traffic fine - how embarrassing would that be?"
Harris has received commendations during his career, including the NSW Police Medal and National Police Service Medal with numerous clasps due to length of service. And has been acknowledged by; the Federal Police in 2006 for providing assistance during a protracted long investigation; Deputy Commissioner's commendation for professionalism during a high risk incident in 1996; and Commissioner of Police Unit Citation for devotion to duty in 1994, during an operation resulting in the arrest of a number of dangerous offenders in possession of firearms.
However, he said a rewarding part of his role is working within the community and is particularly proud of leading the local Anzac Day march. Also he enjoyed the visits to Mudgee Library and Cheryl's preschoolers groups.
"It's been a fun opportunity to go there with other police and show them our uniforms, answer questions about what we do, and to assure them that police are their friends and always here to help them," he said.
As for his retirement plans, "I've got family, a son and a daughter and four little grandsons today proudly wearing their police shirts today. And I'm going to teach them all to drive when they're ready to get their L's and P's and make them good drivers, that's my goal."
And in case you thought you could put the foot down now "because Barry's not out there anymore", think again.
"I'm not the only one here, we've got five cars and nine people in the Highway Patrol office there and they'll do an equally good job. Only the names will be different," he said.
"The police here in Mudgee do a good job and I think we are respected in the community, there's a lot of good people who live here and only a small percentage people that do the wrong thing. So we would like them to change their ways and be law-abiding as well.
"Whilst ever we've got crime, the police have the power to curtail that crime.
"My legacy will live on and that's all about road safety, because I don't like going to a serious accident and seeing someone who's deceased. I've seen a lot of that and it's not only police, it's the Ambulance, the Fire Brigade, the RFS, who have to clean up what's left - it's not a good thing for any of us to those serious accidents, so if we can have zero that's the outcome we want."
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