Officers reflect on a life of cops and robbers

When Graham Clifford and Denis Perich became policemen more than 40 years ago, many officers drove their own cars on the job, drug-induced aggression was rare and their only weapons were a rubber baton and their mouths.

There were no radios to call for back-up and if you had to break up a brawl while stationed alone in the country, you would ask the biggest bloke in town to come with you to stand guard and watch your back.

Sgt Clifford and Insp. Perich are among 169 officers who have taken voluntary severances offered under a plan to cut the number of desk-bound police and increase the number of officers on the beat.

"While we have knowledge and experience, policing is a young person's game . . . you need to be a bit physical to keep up with the criminals and I'm almost 70," Sgt Clifford said.

Both men said policing had given them some of the best experiences and memories of their lives.

Insp. Perich is finishing his career in the business intelligence office but said his passion had been as a detective.

"Playing cops and robbers - that's the great part of this job," he said.

He received a bravery medal in 2001 after trying to defuse a dramatic hostage situation involving an armed gunman at Perth's central police station in 1994.

Insp. Perich said that traumatic incident had stayed in his mind but being able to make a difference to people's lives had been one of the best parts of the job.

"Whether you're attending a burglary, an assault or a rape, if a person has some closure or some comfort by you being there, you get a great personal satisfaction from that," he explained.

The men believe the biggest factor affecting policing today is drugs and alcohol - when it was previously just alcohol.

"I think drug use escalates the violence and creates a lot more unpredictability," Insp. Perich said. They both recommended policing as a career.

Sgt Clifford, who was awarded an Australian Police Medal in the 2001 Australia Day honours, said he could not believe he was paid to do something he loved.

"The thing about police is that there are so many jobs within jobs," he said.

The West Australian

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