After seven years as the northern police boss, Brett Smith will be stepping into a new role.
The longest serving Commander since the '80s, he will be leaving behind nearly four decades of frontline experience, and accepting a secondment to the Australian Institute of Police Management in Sydney.
While he will still be based in Launceston for the majority of the role, he will finish up as Northern Commander later this month.
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It all began when he was just a teenager. He joined Tasmania Police in 1982 at the age of 18.
In the 39 years since then, he has witnessed countless tragedies, managed crisis situations, and watched the role of policing evolve tremendously. But his work has not been limited to the Commander role, with stints in criminal investigation branches and drug squads across the state, as well as search and rescue, counter-terrorism, and country positions.
He has been a constable, a senior constable, a sergeant, an inspector, and the commander of the special operations group, before moving into his current role in 2014.
For the next few hours, a then Sergeant Smith was responsible for not only organising the police response to the massacre, but fielding triple zero calls flooding in as the situation continued to unfold.
"I remember that day vividly," he said.
"It was a very confronting situation, and I was a very young sergeant, who did not have a lot of experience in crisis management."
It was not the first, or the last crisis he would manage either, facing a number of floods, bushfires, sieges, and most recently a global pandemic.
And while work on the frontline involved facing horrific situations - from plane crashes to gruesome murders -Commander Smith said the "community spirit" in the North of the state made the job both worthwhile and rewarding.
"That is something I believe is unique in the North, there is a strong sense of community, and that is one of the things that makes me want to stay working, and living in the North."
Operationally, his most enjoyable position was country policing.
"There is no doubt that country uniform has been the best operational role, I really enjoyed my time at Strahan.
"You had to think laterally, and learn to be a problem solver, you didn't have everything at your fingertips, especially when it was just two of you, and help was a long way away.
"You had to adapt to very complex community situations, and not only live in the community, but police the community, it was a very fine balance."
"The work I have done consistently over about 20 years in staff development and training has been one of the most fulfilling parts of the role," he said.
"Watching other people grow, and taking an interest in their career development is something I value, and you know you are playing a role in building on the capability of your organisation."
It is a passion he will carry through to his new role, which will see him supporting participants from Australasian police jurisdictions undertaking post-graduate studies.
"Despite holding several post-graduate qualifications, I'm more of a hands-on practitioner and not an academic, so in some respects the role will provide some personal challenges, which will be interesting," he said.
"This was a difficult decision, particularly since I enjoy my current role immensely. However, I have always maintained that should an opportunity at the AIPM arise I would seriously consider it, which I have. Many people would know I have a passion for staff development and education, particularly in the leadership space."
His passion for the job, and for those he has worked with has not gone unnoticed.
Throughout his career, he has been awarded a series of medals, including an Australian Police Medal, the National Police Service Medal, a National Medal for 35 years' of service, and a Commissioner's Medal for 30 years' of service.
As for the community he has served for nearly 40 years, Commander Smith has seen both positive and negative changes.
"One of the things you hear a lot is 'when I was a boy the local police officer would have just given me a kick up the backside and sent me home, and that was good for me', but now there would be all sorts of problems with that approach," he said.
"Accountability and transparency are must haves for police, however keeping pace with the changing community demands is challenging.
"I think the rule of thumb is making sure we are upfront and open right from the start, but it's not always easy if we want to get the best outcome for the community. It's the timing of what we say and when we say it that is the variable and which often creates the most angst."
Commander Smith will officially finish up in the role on January 25, but won't be leaving the region anytime soon.
"I'm very proud of our Northern District staff, and while we don't always get it right or meet everyone's expectations, our people punch well above their weight in terms of tackling challenges, achieving performance outputs and demonstrating that all important community spirit," he said.
"I also take this opportunity to thank our broader community for their unwavering support to us during my time as the district commander. Policing is a community-based activity and without the community's support and involvement, maintaining community safety would be much tougher than it is."
It was not yet known who would be taking over the Northern District Commander role.
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