Commander of a "great team"

MANNING Great Lakes Police Commander Peter Thurtell has been based on the Mid North Coast since 2005 and he's become very fond of the area.

"It's a great place, I wasn't always keen to head over this way but once I got here, well I don't really want to leave," he said.

After 29 years in the police force, Peter is one of the most highly qualified commanders in the State, with several other responsibilities including being one of only 10 counter terrorism Forward Commanders.

But the police force wasn't Peter's first career choice.

"I'm a fitter and toolmaker by trade, I did an apprenticeship at 16 and thought that's where I was headed," he laughed.

"Then my brother joined the police force and it sounded quite interesting so I changed my mind and decided to give it a go."

Peter attended the Goulburn Police Academy in 1985, just one year after the facility opened, and was first placed in Redfern, Sydney.

He would then move to the Sydney Police Centre that covered inner city Sydney and included the Kings Cross and Darling Harbour areas, although this centre doesn't operate as a centralised police station anymore.

"That was a really exciting time for a young, new recruit, to be working around those parts of Sydney in that era, it was a great experience," Peter said.

Over the years that followed he held many different positions in different areas, including being a member of the State Investigative Group, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Fraud Squad, changing from a general duties officer to a plain clothes detective until being promoted to Detective Inspector and Crime Manager.

The Manning Great Lakes Command currently has 108 general duties and specialist officers, including eight detectives and a recent visit from the NSW police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, revealed plans for a further seven general duties officers to join the command in May 2015.

"It's a great team here, there's a good camaraderie between everyone and these positive working relationships have filtered through to significant improvements in crime statistics in the local area," said Peter.

"Our strike forces are seeing incredible results, one I'm particularly proud of is the work of Strike Force Twig which is currently in operation and is certainly the most successful strike force targeting child sex offenders in the State.

"To date we've arrested 24 people, resulting in 64 charges, it's hugely successful and ongoing and that success is due to the commitment by officers and the level of professionalism as well as the strategies we're employing," he added.

But undoubtedly Peter's most memorable experience of his career was the operation of Strike Force Durkin that lead to the successful capture of Australia's most wanted man, Malcolm Naden.

"I was one of three commanders in that strike force that oversaw 500 police officers for 4-5 months of the operation," Peter explained.

"That's the most successful major operation I've been involved in and something I'll never forget. Everyone worked so well together, it was a team effort and a great result."

Over the years Peter has witnessed some drastic changes to policing, including changes to legislation, weapons, and responsibilities.

"Probably the biggest change I've noticed is the amount of paperwork that's involved now," he admitted.

"There's a lot more to comply with and staff are required to spend a lot of time on paperwork, particularly those who are out arresting people.

"Hand in hand with that though is the advances to technology, going from a paper log to having everything stored on a computer network has been invaluable and means we can see criminal history and background information so much easier."

Other changes Peter noted were DNA analysis and other computer intelligence, along with the introduction of capsicum spray and tazers.

"They just give officers another option and they've played a significant role in reducing injuries to both police and offenders."

Outside the police force, Peter is married with three children and loves living in Forster.

He is a member of the Wingham Rifle Club and is a highly successful rifle target shooter, having represented Australia on a number of occasions.

"I think my time on the Australian team is up though," said Peter.

"But I'd like to continue going in the State competitions."

In the meantime being the commander of an area of this size leaves little time for anything else but Peter is proud of his team and the work being done locally, and is looking forward to continued success and improvements to crime rates.

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