‘Legendary’ patrolman to retire after 45 years

At 6’7 and 66 years of age Bruce Whitwell is considered by colleagues to be a living legend of highway patrol.

His imposing height makes him instantly recognisable along with his fair go attitude.

But after 45 years with NSW Police he will put his uniform on for the last time on Wednesday.

The Sylvania resident joined the service as a trainee on February 14, 1972, and will retire as a senior constable on February 15.

He started at 21 in general duties before transferring to the traffic branch in 1974.

He began in Highway Patrol in 1986 and said it was a natural fit.

‘’I was working in a nine to five job that I was just sick of,’’ he said.

‘’It was either the firies or police and an opening with the police came first.

‘’In highway patrol you’re on the road and you can be your own boss.’’

He said a lot has changed in those his 45 years.

He has served under 11 NSW Police Commissioners and has seen the service name change from the NSW Police Force to NSW Police Service, NSW Police and back to NSW Police Force. 

But he said technology was the biggest change.

‘’When I first started, it was hard just to get a radio in the car,’’ he said.

‘’It’s mind-boggling how much has changed and the older I get the harder it is to embrace.’’

When he started reports were made on manual typewriters where mistakes were fixed by pulling out the paper and starting again.

 As a highway patrolman the car technology has also drastically changed from in car computers and video, automatic number plate reading and road spikes.

Just recently he has seen the introduction of MobiPol devices that sees ticket information put in through a mobile phone and the fine issued by email.

But it’s the variety that has seen him stick with his career.

‘’It’s a privilege to go to a job that I love every day,’’ he said.

‘’There’s so much variety; one day is different to the day before and the day after.’’

That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been challenges.

Senior Constable Whitewell said he’s been punched, kicked and even bitten while working.

‘’People never like getting a ticket but there isn’t much respect there anymore,’’ he said.

‘’Respect for cops has gone down the drain.’’

Despite that he has a simple way of working.

‘’I just deal with people the way that I would like to be dealt with,’’ he said.

Long-time friend and colleague Anthony Quinn said many in the service considered him a living legend.

‘’I can say with all honesty that Bruce has carried out his duties with professionalism, courtesy and compassion ever since I've known him,’’ he said.

‘’He is a man of very few words and does not like being the centre of attention, but would rather go about his duty quietly and without fuss.’’

He said he represented old school highway patrolman, washing his car at the start of every shift.

When he walks out of Riverwood police station for the last time he will the 10th longest currently serving New South Wales Police officer.

He said he will use his retirement to spend time with his wife Kim who has stood by his side for all those years.

’’About 18 months ago I decided I wanted to get to the 45 years,’’ he said.

‘’I’ll be happy to have a bit of normality in our lives.

‘’I think she deserves it. I think she’s more excited than I am.’’