After five decades with the NSW Police Force, Sergeant John Waples will be donning his badge and cap for the last time today.
Sergeant Waples, who attested in Redfern in 1970, has spent the last 50 years patrolling our roads and working with at-risk children in regional NSW.
As a fresh-faced 19-year-old, he started his career as a quiet probationary constable stationed at Regent Street, Sydney.
“They told me I wouldn’t last 12 months because I was too shy,” Sergeant Waples laughed.
“I had a real bee in my bonnet after that, and I think I went on to prove them wrong.”
After two years, he moved to the Traffic and Highway Patrol Command, where he spent eight years until an incident while on duty in Wollongong changed the course of his career in 1978.
“I’d just pulled a fella over that had gone through a red light. We were parked on the side of the road and a truck came along from behind and ran over the top of the police car,” Sergeant Waples recalled.
“The guy I was working with was injured as well. I was too young to stop working so I fought back and kept going. My neck and back injuries meant I couldn’t spend all day in a highway patrol car, so I ended up moving back into general duties out of Lithgow.”
After three years working the beat, Sergeant Waples was ready for a change and moved into a role with the Police Citizens Youth Clubs of NSW (PCYC). He partnered with a retired headmaster and started a youth program in Cessnock, to help teenagers suspended from school return to the education system.
The model was a success, and Sergeant Waples was given the opportunity to grow the program in the Riverina, Albury and Griffith areas.
“We saw a lot of kids who were making bad choices and destined for institutions, change the way they did things and go on to lead fulfilling lives,” he said.
“That was definitely the most rewarding part of my 50-year career.”
Sergeant Waples’ final posting was at Goulburn PCYC, where he continued his work with high-risk youth throughout the Riverina area.
“I was reluctant to leave in the end, but I guess 50 years is a long time,” he said.
Acting Commander for the Youth and Crime Prevention Command, Acting Superintendent Paul Allman, thanked Sergeant Waples for his many years of valued service.
“Sergeant Waples has had a significant impact on the lives of young people throughout regional NSW in his 50-year career,” A/Supt Allman said.
“On behalf of the Youth Command I would like to wish him all the best as he enters into retirement.”
As he embarks on his retirement, Sergeant Waples will be making a sea change, moving to the South Coast, where he has signed up as a volunteer with Marine Rescue at Greenwell Point.
“I’m looking forward to enjoying the sunshine and saltwater and will certainly be continuing to live life to the fullest,” he said.