DAVE Isherwood doesn't let the ones who got away get to him.

Of the "probably thousands" of arrests and convictions over his long career in the Queensland Police Service, there have been killers who escaped justice.

Most have been through juries or the legal system - a system he believes lacks respect for victims of crime.

And he's in the position to be robust enough to know what he's talking about, having worked through the ranks of a beat cop in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley back in 1975, to his last post as acting superintendent for the Southern police region.

Since 2009 he's been the detective inspector for the Darling Downs, and served in southeast Queensland and a few years in Miles on the Western Downs.

Now, he's looking to retire gracefully and move on, leave the job he's done for 42 years behind him, a cabinet of convictions a matter of public record and a career he's seen change dramatically both internally and in the public face.

Early knockback

But it almost never was, getting knocked back on his first attempt to join because of partial colour blindness.

"The fact that I got knocked back the first time threw me a bit," he said.

"I always had an inkling to be a policeman and it actually came first. I put in for teacher's college but I'd already been accepted to police when I got accepted to teaching.

"Somehow I think I would've made a better policeman that I would have a teacher."

That was January 20, 1975 and by 1980, he'd risen through the ranks to become a plain clothes detective.

Writing tickets wasn't his style - "I found that boring" - and it was with major crime that he found his forte.

"It's because you achieve something and I'm not saying that general duties or special units don't, but the investigation side was always my forte.

"I like the fact you investigated matters that were long term - you'd started with something and you'd get to the conclusion and they'd be convicted.

"I had an old superintendent who is now passed on but I was whinging one day about options outside of the job for employment because I think most police go through that at some stage.

"I said, 'I'm de-skilled' and he said, 'you're a man who has convicted, what, 12 people for murder? You've taken a person's life away from them - life in prison, their freedom - and don't you think if you can do that, you can do anything?'

"To incarcerate someone for their life, and I suppose today that is 14 years plus, is a pretty big thing.

"And it's not as though I've done it once or twice, I've done it numerous times."

His last "collar" was in 2001 when a thuggish brute's anger at being cut off at a set of traffic lights boiled over and left a father-to-be dead, brutally bashed with a tyre lever and stomped to death in his unit.

"That was my last arrest where I arrested someone for murder."

The killer confessed, and it was upheld in court.

Retiring detective Inspector Dave Isherwood is given a guard of honour by colleagues as he leaves the Toowoomba Police station for the last time, Friday, December 22, 2017.
Retiring detective Inspector Dave Isherwood is given a guard of honour by colleagues as he leaves the Toowoomba Police station for the last time, Friday, December 22, 2017.

Police partners

IN THE pre-Fitzgerald Inquiry days police partners were common.

His longest police partner was with Rod Kemp when the pair worked out of what is now known as the Woolloongabba CIB in Brisbane.

From a man found stabbed to death in his home one Friday afternoon - solved that night - to a vagrant found dead on Saturday, and a man killed by his partner on Monday, the pair got results.

"You know good cop, bad cop? He (Rod) was nice, quietly spoken, and I was always the aggressive, loud-mouthed yobbo type.

"The thing was, we were a good team and this is the importance of having good teams.

"Today we just throw coppers together to go and do a job and hopefully they solve the crime.

"That good cop, bad cop might sound like crap but it actually works. It's all about rapport and we don't build rapport now. Policy and legislation doesn't allow us to do that."

Mandatory retirement ages mean Dave has to hang up the handcuffs and badge and move into retirement - something he admits he wouldn't do if it wasn't policy.

Since 2001 he's supervised investigative units, away from the crime scenes and front lines, backing up a good group of detectives and officers who get the results needed for the community.

In 2011 he headed up Taskforce Galaxy; the inquest into the deaths caused by the southeast Queensland floods of January that year - his trial by fire of sorts, and a grim introduction to the Darling Downs.

"That was one of the biggest loss-of-life incidents in peacetime in Queensland," he says.

"To do an investigation like that, long term, was one of the biggest investigations I had ever done."

It's a lot to reflect on more than 40 years or, as he says, "more than a lifetime" and with a steely commitment to serve.

It hasn't been without its emotion, the connection to the victims and the families of victims, but that's part of the job.

"You've got to divorce yourself. The success in this game is to not get involved. Get involved, but not get involved.

"It will be hard to let go. I've spent more than a lifetime - most people wouldn't spend a lifetime in a job like that.

"If I have regrets, I regret the fact that I couldn't go a little bit longer because I quite enjoy it. The mandatory retirement is an issue but I think if I was on the street I would probably want to go too.

"The reality is I'm just going to retire gracefully and move on. It's been a good job. I want to leave thinking that it has been all worthwhile."

Dave's last official day with the QPS will be December 24. He plans to spend Christmas with his family, do some travelling, then retire in the region.

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