Tasmania Police Constable retires after four decades

Leigh Bailey worked as an officer in the Northern Midlands for 35 years of his 43-year career. Picture: Scott Gelston
Leigh Bailey worked as an officer in the Northern Midlands for 35 years of his 43-year career. Picture: Scott Gelston

Leigh Bailey may not have grown up wanting to be a police officer but that didn’t stop him from spending 43 years of his life in the force.

Joining in the 70s as a cadet, Mr Bailey said he had “never thought about it” before but it seemed like a good career choice and a “chance to help people”.

He graduated from the academy and went on to spend more than four decades on the beat.

He worked in both the South and North-West, but spent the majority of his career working in the Northern Midlands as a “country cop” – a role he said he was happy to stay in.

“Being in the country, you did your own CIB work, you did your own drug squad work, you are first on scene for fatal accidents, you are first on scene for murders – you really are dealing with a lot,” he said.

“You lived in the town too and you knew people and people knew you. They would come directly to you when they wanted a police officer.

“You also got to know your crooks, which was a good thing because they showed a little bit of respect in those days.”

FLASHBACK: Retired Tasmania Police Constable Leigh Bailey joined the force as a cadet in 1976. Picture: Supplied

FLASHBACK: Retired Tasmania Police Constable Leigh Bailey joined the force as a cadet in 1976. Picture: Supplied

Retiring last month, Mr Bailey said he had seen many changes throughout his time – from the types of criminals police had to deal with to the culture within the force.

Early on his career, he said it was all about cracking down on marijuana. But by the end of it, he and his fellow officers were dealing with the devastating impact of ice.

“The druggies then, in the ‘70s, were the hippies … they could have their joints and be happy as Larry. Crooks got hold of [cannabis] in the early ‘80s and realised they could start making money out of it ...that was about the extent of the drugs,” he said.

“But then ice has come into it and I feel sorry for police officers and the public now having to deal with it. You could still talk to people affected by marijuana, I don’t think you could talk to people or rationalise with people on ice.”

Dealing with criminals, even those affected by ice, was not the hardest part of his job though. He said having to tell people their loved ones had died was the biggest challenge – especially when it involved children.

“You are trained for it, but the training is never the same as actually having to go and do it,” he said.

“It doesn't matter what rank you are, or if you are a male or female, some people can just cope with it better than others.”

While his Tasmania Police career may be over, Mr Bailey said he still had advice for anyone looking to follow in his footsteps.

“You can never, ever afford to back down and treat people how you want to be treated,” he said.

A keen hunter and fisher, Mr Bailey plans to spend much of his retirement out bush. 

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