Tears flow as 'Papa Bear' calls time on career
HE MAY have been considered one of the father figures of Ipswich police ranks with 39 years of hardening experience, but there was no holding back the tears for a long-serving cop when he was sent off in style on Friday.
Senior Sergeant Gareth James signed off on the last of three major stints in Ipswich that spanned some 33 years of his 39-year career in the Queensland Police Service.
His loyal workmates at Yamanto station would not let him go without a farewell to remember, with dozens of police officers and civilian staff - as well as a bagpipe player - lining the driveway to see him off for the last time in uniform.
Despite wearing thick black sunglasses, the tremors of raw emotion were clear for all to see as Snr Sgt James was escorted away in an all-terrain vehicle for a mini lap of honour up Warwick Rd.
The one they called "Papa Bear" was simply overcome with emotion.
"I suppose I have some mixed feelings but it is predominantly happiness overall," he said.
"It has been a long road just getting here, but the things that stand out were saving a koala off the road a few years back, being one of the first crews at the Reid's fire, and the 2011 floods.
"In spite of the bad situations we deal with, the majority of people I have run into are good people, and the criminal element is a minority.
"All in all, the good in people outweighs the bad."
Snr Sgt James served as a district duty officer in the latter years with the Queensland Police.
It was a role he embraced and his enthusiasm well and truly endeared him to the community and his workmates.
Senior Sergeant Brett Wendt said a goodbye function held on Tuesday attracted 120 people.
"He loved his job down to the very last minute," Snr Sgt Wendt said.
"Even on his last shift he was running around like a 21-year-old."
Snr Sgt James is turning 60 this year, meaning he must retire as a serving police officer.
He says he is still not sure where retired life would take him.
"I'm going to take it easy for a couple of months and see where life leads me," he said.
He left one last message for those he will leave behind in the job.
"It is hard to explain, but I have always found Ipswich police to be of the highest calibre due to the things they experience over a short period of time.
" Overall they are exceptional."