NEW CHAPTER: Dell Fisher is retiring after 42 years in the police force.
NEW CHAPTER: Dell Fisher is retiring after 42 years in the police force. Warren Lynam

Ahh the memories: Dell says goodbye after 42 yrs in policing

THE police service was very much a man's world when Dell Fisher joined in 1973.

Female officers were not only in the minority, they were expected to do menial tasks considered unsuitable for men.

That often included typing, filing and chauffeuring senior officers around.

No one blinked an eye when a young Const Fisher's first taste of "real police work" was scrubbing the floors at Toowong Police Station.

Now a sergeant and a shift supervisor at Caloundra Police Station, Dell Fisher is happy to acknowledge how much things have changed during her time in the force.

"We've come a long way," she laughed as she pondered her impending retirement.

"When I first started it was a man's job - it was no place for a woman.

"We were given jobs that were considered not to be men's jobs."

Even the uniforms appear to have been designed by men.

"They weren't really conducive to real police work," Sgt Fisher recalled.

"That era saw our skirts trendy, but very short and we were issued with matching handbags which weren't practical.

"We were expected to keep our Smith & Wesson revolvers in our handbags."

The first female police officers had been sworn in only eight years earlier. They had no powers to arrest people and performed mainly office duties.

Fifty years later, the Queensland Police Service has 3038 policewomen - 25.46% of all members.

Sgt Fisher went into the police academy straight after Year 12 and said it was generally accepted their first pay went to buying their own typewriter.

PROUD MOMENT: Dell Fisher (circled) and the rest of the police academy graduation class of 1973.
PROUD MOMENT: Dell Fisher (circled) and the rest of the police academy graduation class of 1973. Contributed Nicola Brander

She was part of a new wave of policewomen inducted by Commissioner Ray Whitrod as an anti-corruption measure.

His name was dragged through the mud when he clashed with the Bjelke-Petersen Government but was cleared during The Fitzgerald Inquiry, which exposed institutionalised corruption in Queensland politics and police force.

It was a period which still holds painful memories for officers such as Sgt Fisher.

"The police force was in a state of shock at what had been going on.

"Good men and women were abhorred at the conduct of people they knew and even those they didn't know.

"People who had sworn to protect the community were corrupt, from the Police Commissioner down.

"We welcomed the inquiry, the subsequent change and we were pleased to rid the force of the bad eggs."

After serving in Redcliffe, Sgt Fisher transferred to Brisbane Mobile Patrols, where she was usually assigned to driving the Inspector around.

Then followed time in Townsville, where she was put in the radio room because the officer-in-charge thought women's' voices sounded better on the radio.

She finally got to do some "real police work" when she transferred to Mundingburra Station at Townsville, then 

CELEBRATION: Sgt Fisher with Police Commissioner Ian Stewart at her farewell dinner.
CELEBRATION: Sgt Fisher with Police Commissioner Ian Stewart at her farewell dinner.

Mareeba and finally Caloundra, where she was appointed officer-in-charge of the newly-formed Caloundra Juvenile Aid Bureau (JAB).

For the past 26 years she's worked as Acting Senior Sergeant roles as Station OIC at Caloundra, Beerwah and Kawana Waters stations and an Acting Senior Sergeant role of Crime Manager in Maroochydore.

During her career, she was not only a working mum to four daughters but found time to get her Masters Degree in Leadership and Management (in Policing).

None of her daughters have followed her into the force but not because they were discouraged.

"I wouldn't have minded if they had followed me," Sgt Fisher said.

"I would have told them 'go for it'.

"I love this job. The very best thing is that it is unpredictable.

"There is still plenty of paperwork involved but I see some inroads being made to try and minimise this.

"We've come a very long way from typing reports on manual typewriters."

You can't spend 42 years in a job without experiencing some highs and lows.

Sgt Fisher said the hardest job of any police officer was having to tell someone their loved one had died.

"You see the look on their face and know that anything you say after that doesn't register with them.

"It's obviously a job no-one looks forward to doing and we have to steel ourselves for it."

But there have been plenty of high points.

"There is a real brotherhood - or sisterhood - among police officers," she said.

"In many ways, we all belong to one big family.

"The good memories that will stay with me are the times when things turned out all right.

"Times when you could help someone and they say 'thank you' but there's no need for them to say anything because you can see it in their eyes.

"It reminds you that there are still decent people out there who appreciate what we do."

Sadly, not everyone falls into that category and Sgt Fisher said the scourge of drugs had a lot to do with it.

"With the increased use of illicit drugs and unfortunately the lack of moral fibre in some people, the jobs police are attending nowadays are way more unpredictable.

"There is a lack of respect for authority in general, whether it's the court system, the police or the education system.

"But, thankfully, there are still plenty of decent, law-abiding people out there who respect police officers and what we do.

"That makes it worthwhile."

Sgt Fisher was officially farewelled at a dinner on Thursday night attended by Police Commissioner Ian Stewart but she still has more than a week to go before she walks out the door of Caloundra Police Station for the last time.

In a police service tradition, a piper will play while her colleagues will form a guard of honour to say goodbye.

Then she plans to travel the world and hopefully spend time working in orphanages in Third World countries.

After 42 years in the service, it seems that helping other people has become a habit she will find hard to break, even in civilian life.

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