Country postings taught Gary Worboys a thing or two about policing in his 40-year career.
If people didn't feel safe, then all the crime data in the world didn't mean a thing.
The notion that police could more effectively investigate crime if they connected with community and civic leadership has shaped Deputy Commissioner Worboys' approach.
It was just one aspect of a long and distinguished career for which the Goulburn man was recognised at a police attestation parade in Goulburn on Friday. He and Commissioner Mick Fuller APM marched out together, marking their retirement.
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State Governor Margaret Beazley AC QC, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet, Mayor Bob Kirk and Goulburn MP Wendy Tuckerman were among officials attending the event at which class 350 also attested.
"Gary embodies what a police officer is; dedication, commitment, sacrifice and compassion," Commissioner Fuller said.
"His work as the State Emergency Operations Controller during the bushfires and the COVID-19 response are just two examples of the accomplishments during his four decades of service.
"I've had the privilege to work alongside Gary for many years and I'm proud to call him not only a colleague but also a friend. He will be missed by the women and men in blue. However, we wish him, his wife Deanne, and the family a happy retirement."
Deanne, their children and extended family were on hand for the emotional ceremony.
It was a long way from Mr Worboys' beginnings as a boy growing up in Blacktown. Following his education, his father encouraged him to find a 'secure' government job. But policing always held a certain allure.
"It was very much about going to work each day and being confronted with something exciting and challenging," Mr Worboys said.
"Every day it opened my eyes and it never disappointed me."
He completed his training at Redfern Academy in 1982 and was subsequently posted to Blacktown, Penrith and Lismore, where he married his "school sweetheart," Deanne. The couple's two children, Matt and Kylie were born at Lismore.
Mr Worboys then took up a sergeant's post at Lightning Ridge, which held a certain "mystique." Most crime centred on the opal trade but the remote community relied on each other.
"There was a perception of a certain lawlessness but I found it easy to police. We were sad to leave because we'd made good friends," he said.
In the 1980s they moved to Goulburn. Mr Worboys was appointed superintendent in 1999 and was the Commander at Goulburn, Monaro, Wollongong and Liverpool Local Area Commands.
Goulburn remained the family home throughout.
In 2013, he was promoted to Assistant Commissioner, Southern Region, where he developed a clear vision with its focus on 'Crime, Community and Our People.'
His rise through the ranks continued. In 2017, Mr Worboys was promoted to Deputy Commissioner, Regional NSW Field Operations.
"Commissioner Fuller gave me the opportunity to influence the rural crime response and have teams right across NSW," Mr Worboys said.
"By next year they will have tripled in size and they've given farmers a voice...I've had the opportunity to reshape that and I'm just so happy with where it's at."
Once again, connecting police with community was at its heart.
During this time, Mr Worboys introduced the officer in charge model in rural areas in response to public feedback. He also restructured 11 commands into seven police districts.
In addition, following consultation with Aboriginal elders and council groups, he implemented a campaign to raise the Aboriginal flag in front of all NSW police stations and buildings.
"It has been very symbolic with Aboriginal communities...If you don't push through that bureaucratic response, nothing gets done," Mr Worboys said.
In more recent time, he's led the state's COVID-19 and bushfire response. He told Australian Community Media he never thought he'd finish his career in this role but it had been a privilege to work with the highest level of government.
"The work with the former premier was a highlight of my career and I'll never forget the opportunities COVID brought me to understand how Health and other emergency services can link arms and provide what I think is the best response to COVID in the world," he said.
Over the years he's been awarded the Australian Police Medal (APM), National Police Service Medal, National Medal with second Clasp, NSW Police Medal with fourth clasp and the ACT Emergency Medal.
Mr Worboys did not apply for the Commissioner's role after Mr Fuller announced his retirement. He said he could have been competitive but decided instead that it was time to spend more time with his family who had made many sacrifices for his career.
He intends to stay in Goulburn but is looking forward to more time with family and friends and for golf, fishing, camping and travel.
Mr Worboys' service was honoured at a Police Academy dinner on Wednesday night, which Commissioner Fuller and senior officers attended.
"I'm sure there will be a tear (at Friday's march out)," he said on Wednesday.
"But as I'm walking off I'll think of that young police officer who thought about the excitement of a government job and throughout the 40 years moved away from policing being about me to, hopefully, linking it to thousands and millions of people across NSW, whether that's kids in PCYCs or the COVID response at the highest levels.
"I'll think about what an incredible experience it's been for me and what great opportunities it's brought for me and my family.
"My final thought will be that policing owes me nothing; it has provided me everything."
Mr Worboys' officially retires on December 30.