I can vividly remember attending the Royal Easter Show as a young kid one year in the early 1990s and despite the lure of the showbags, rides and hot dogs, my grandmother couldn’t get me away from the police display.
As a seven or eight-year-old, it was beyond cool to sit in a real life police car, lights flashing and all.
I left with a ‘Cops are Tops’ badge and sticker, the former of which I still have like the sentimental hoarder I am.
That ‘Cops are Tops’ campaign was huge at the time, disappearing over the years but always popping back up again from time to time.
Whenever I see a faded bumper sticker sporting the slogan on a worn out car, it brings a smile.
I’m fortunate that all of my dealings with police in my life have been largely positive ones, even if occasionally in not so good circumstances (my first and only car accident on the Gladesville Bridge comes to mind).
For many, their dealings have not been good – and I understand the temperature is pretty hot around the Police Force at times, both here in Australia and particularly internationally.
Sometimes, it can be hard to see past the uniform to the human wearing it.
Last Wednesday night, I had the honour of hosting the Nepean Police Officer of the Year Awards, an initiative that has been running for many years now, driven by local Rotary Clubs. The Weekender was also happy to be a sponsor of this event.
The winner of the award this year was Leading Senior Constable Kylie Brian, who has actually been promoted recently to the rank of Sergeant at Blue Mountains Police Area Command.
Kylie Brian joined the NSW Police Force 13 years ago, and was posted to Penrith Police Station to commence her career.
Described as a “patient, polite, professional and inspiring officer”, she consistently takes on work regardless of her workload, and undertakes those duties to the highest level.
She’s known as being exceptionally supportive of her colleagues and going above and beyond for those she works with, so her nomination and eventual win at the Police Officer of the Year Awards last Wednesday night was no surprise.
Truth is any one of the nominees could have won the award.
There was Leading Senior Constable Wes Kennedy, nominated after his extraordinary work saving a motorist and vehicle stuck in rising floodwaters back in 2022.
And Detective Elise Cause, who painstakingly led an investigation after a number of school students made a complaint against a teacher for inappropriate behaviour. The investigation resulted in the man being charged with a whole range of offences in relation to children.
There was Detective Kyel McGarry, nominated after an investigation into the grooming of an eight-year-old child online that led to the child sending intimate images of herself via Snapchat to the offender. After some incredible work, he got his man.
Constables Kelsey Sherman and Zoe Bevan were nominated together for their bravery and efforts in their handling of a situation in 2022 when they were confronted with a man with a gun in an extremely delicate and dangerous situation.
Constable Katie Edwards was nominated for her incredible efforts in 2022, attending 432 incidents, making 181 arrests, laying charges for 223 offences and engaging in 370 proactive incidents designed to drive down and prevent crime.
Constable Madeline Ireland was nominated for her work with victims and witnesses, and dealing with confronting scenes with extraordinary professionalism, described as a role model for fellow officers.
Constable Timothy Mascherin was nominated for his huge workload too, attending some 500 incidents and making 178 arrests last year.
Constable Tim Verhelst is described as an encyclopaedia when it comes to knowledge of local domestic violence offenders and victims, and has become a champion of getting justice for those impacted by that terrible scourge on our community.
Constable Ryan Napper was nominated for his work in a range of difficult and complex investigations, becoming an inspiration to junior officers.
And Sergeant Ben Gillen was nominated for the work he does at Nepean PAC, with it quickly clear that he has enormous respect amongst his officers for his leadership qualities and approach.
As each of these nominees took to the stage and their stories were told, you got to see the person behind the job. Out of uniform, in a social setting, being celebrated for what they do each day.
When you take a step back from the scrutiny that sometimes follows our police, you quickly realise what an extraordinary job it is they do.
The things they see, the people they deal with, the extraordinary circumstances they confront on a daily basis.
Too often it’s easy to sit back and be an armchair critic.
Like all industries, there’s rogue elements that let the profession down.
But by and large, the police family is a united one and being a cop is one of the toughest gigs you could imagine.
Last Wednesday night was a small opportunity to pay the respect that deserves to come their way, but so often doesn’t these days.
It was a great reminder that cops really are tops.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Breaking News Reporter. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations. In 2023, he was named Editor of the Year at the Mumbrella Publish Awards.