Wimmera Superintendent Paul Margetts knows Western Victoria, and knows the unique demands placed on police posted in one or two-officer stations.
Before taking on his current role in April 2015, Superintendent Margetts worked in Horsham, Stawell, Halls Gap, Warrnambool, Ouyen, Echuca and, for four years during the 1990s, on his own in Koondrook on the Victorian side of the Murray River.
He said being involved in the community was key to success at small stations.
"There was a bit of an impact on family because we had to move house and access kindergartens and schools, and we were engaged in the community through sporting clubs," he said. "We had some really positive experiences, which I share with officers thinking about working in a single-member police station."
These experiences inform his approach to recruiting.
Superintendent Margetts said he looked for candidates who were aware of the gravity of their role in the community.
"Working in a rural area like the Wimmera, you have a high profile and much stronger connection among the people you serve," he said. "It provides the opportunity to be a leader."
He said attracting people already living in the Wimmera to serve in the force was a big focus.
"We know if we recruit local people, at some stage during their career, they are likely to come back and work at one of the Wimmera units," he said.
In the past few weeks, Wimmera police have recruited a new Sergeant, Andrew North, and a new Senior Constable, Rebecca Nathan, to Edenhope.
Sergeant North worked in Horsham while Senior Constable Nathan moves to the region from Portland.
Superintendent Margetts said the process of recruiting a new senior constable to Apsley - one of the 11 single-member police stations across the Horsham and Northern Grampians areas - would conclude within the next week.
He said no particular background best prepared people for a career in policing - the only prerequisite was a desire to help others.
"I was recently a squad mentor for new recruits going through the academy," he said. "Out of 50 people in the room, there were a such a wide variety of past careers - trades, hospitality, tourism, self-employed and people who had moved to Australia from overseas," he said.
"It's great to have that, because police represent the community and the community are the police."
Superintendent Margetts said Wimmera police were also in regular contact with their counterparts across Victoria encouraging them to apply for vacancies.
"We are involved in development and planning programs where we meet other police members and learn what their goals are so we can mentor those who want to work in rural environment," he said.
Regional beat suits Tony
Tony Clark still remembers his toughest time as Rainbow's sole police officer.
In 2010, he attended the death of father and son John and Michael Helyar in an accident where a metal windmill they were transporting clipped overhead powerlines. A second father and son pair, Ian and Nathan Wheeler, survived.
"That was quite difficult to deal with because I knew the families in involved," he said.
He suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the aftermath. But he said what happened next justified his move to the Wimmera from Melbourne 16 years ago.
"I had a lot of support from the community and Victoria Police, and that was a godsend really," he said.
A member of the force for 30 years, Leading Senior Constable Clark grew up in the north-east Victorian town of Glenrowan, where Ned Kelly had his famous "last stand". He eventually moved to Melbourne, where he met his wife Simone, to work as an officer in traffic management.
But concerns for his personal safety on the job made him look elsewhere.
"I left Melbourne because of the aggression I was shown from some people in the general public while working, and just wanted to come back to a country environment where you can talk to people," he said. "People have respect for you and you can solve matters by explaining things to them."
He worked in traffic management for three years at Stawell and another two years in general duties at Kaniva before moving to Rainbow 11 years ago. He said the decision to relocate was always made with his family.
"There have been difficulties with obviously each move to an area where we haven't known anyone, but we've built from the ground up relationships which we still maintain," he said.
He said he believed his personality had helped him in this regard, and that good character was one of the most important qualities a solitary police officer could have.
"You need an understanding of people's situations, and you have time to dig a bit further and to follow up on matters more deeply," he said. "In Melbourne, it was more about dealing with things when they became an issue and then moving on."
He said it was this ability to follow up at a later date that helped both him and the families of the electrocution incident recuperate.
Wimmera Superintendent Paul Margetts has also served at a single-officer station, at Koondrook. He said his time there gave him a solid foundation in community policing.
"Even though I was working in a one-person environment, I was still part of a team," he said.
"One time a homemade pipe bomb was located on the banks of the Murray River, and two units came up from Melbourne to dispose of it."
New recruit fulfilling lifelong dream
HORSHAM Constable Paul Winfield knows to expect the unexpected as a police officer.
And despite his relatively recent appointment to the career, he has a unique insight into how harrowing the role can be.
Constable Winfield, 25, is in his first week as an officer at Horsham after growing up in the region.
“I’d always wanted to become a police officer - ever since I was about six years old," Constable Winfield said. "That’s when I remember telling my dad the life goal, but I couldn’t join straight out of school, so I got the job at the hospital.
"If you get enough exposure to various situations when you’re younger, you could be considered to join - but it was also personal. I didn’t really feel ready to tackle the workload the force has until I was older."
After five years working as a supply officer at Wimmera Health Care Group, Constable Winfield submitted his application to Victoria Police in January 2017. Thirteen months later, he started at the academy in Melbourne.
"The process is pretty long when you’re on the receiving end of it, but it’s all to ensure you’re fit for the job," he said.
Part of Constable Winfield's training involved serving in different police stations for week-long placements. While posted at Melbourne CBD, he attended the November 2018 Bourke Street attack.
"I wasn’t one of the first responding units, but I was there maintaining public order," he said. "There were still a fair few people in the thick of it when I arrived, so I had to get them to safety."
While he is not from a policing family, the job is still in Constable Winfield's blood.
"It’s purely been a life goal for me ever since I was a kid. As corny as it sounds, the recruitment advertisement, ‘be a force for good’ really connected with me," he said.