AFTER 43 years with Victoria Police, one of Ballarat's most experienced members is hanging up his uniform for the last time.
While modest about his achievements, Inspector Greg Payne - who has been working in Ballarat for the past 10 years - has had a diverse and successful career through which he has solved plenty of crimes and implemented countless innovative crime prevention initiatives.
Known as a man of integrity, with exceptional skills and for always being positive, in his time with the police force he has witnessed many changes, inspired many of his colleagues and made plenty of friends along the way.
43 YEARS OF POLICING
While he enrolled in a boilermaker/ welder apprenticeship at 16, he had always wanted to be a policeman.
At 21, he decided to take the first step in what would become a lifelong career, and signed up to the Police Academy.
He remembers that Monday morning his now wife of 42 years dropped him at the gates as a daunting experience similar to a child about to begin his first day at school.
After graduating from the Academy after 20 weeks of intensive training, he worked on the beat for a few months at Port Melbourne, before being selected to fill a vacancy at Williamstown.
It was very unusual for a police member fresh out of the Academy to be chosen for such a position back then, as normally they would be required to return to police headquarters at Russell Street.
Starting in his new position across the bay, he was in his element working on the streets in Melbourne's western suburbs: it was where he grew up and had previously completed his apprenticeship at the naval dockyards in Williamstown, but was now in a job he absolutely loved and had discovered a great passion for.
After four years, he was promoted to Detective Constable - again, this was an exceptionally rare occurrence -and commenced work at the Criminal Investigation Bureau (now the Criminal Investigation Unit) based at Altona North.
He worked there for six years, rotating from the homicide squad to a number of different task forces.
From there, he was stationed as a uniform sergeant at Avondale Heights for a few months before he moved back to the CIB - this time in the fraud squad, where he worked as a Detective Sergeant for just over six years. There he discovered a knack for investigating fraudulent solicitors.
In 1995 he went to work at Sunshine CIB as a Detective Sergeant for a year, before he started work at Victoria Police's Detective Training School.
Based at the school for five years, he created a legacy for himself that has also made an impact on many detectives' lives across the state.
At the training school he developed a field investigation course which is today the first phase in a detective's training and additionally set up and taught at the advanced detective training school for Sergeants.
While in this role, he received a Blue Ribbon scholarship to travel to the United Kingdom, to the FBI Academy at Quantico and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
On this trip he learnt about cognitive interviewing and upon his return implemented the interviewing method within Victoria Police.
After years of training detectives, he returned to solving crime - where his detective career began at Altona North - before he received a promotion to Inspector.
In his many years as a detective, Inspector Payne worked closed many significant cases.
Describing policing as a "lifelong passion", he never lost that eagerness to jump from his bed and get to work each morning. He joined the force with a desire to be a detective and always enjoyed crime investigation work.
"Crime investigation is something I've always loved. I love putting the pieces together," he said.
Crime investigation is something I've always loved. I love putting the pieces together.Inspector Greg Payne
"When you get a major investigation and get a result, particularly an arrest in relation to a major crime, it's so satisfying."
Through his career he investigated an Italian crime syndicate from Griffith, as well as organised crime gangs stealing cars and major fraud from solicitors who were stealing land titles and taking out false mortgages.
Following one investigation, two offenders were arrested based on evidence of a partial fingerprint. A major trial ensued, with the fraudulent solicitors subsequently sentenced to jail time.
He also investigated and solved many sexual assaults, including one which he solved based on a partial description of a tattoo.
With the homicide squad he was involved in a major inquiry in relation to a Punt Road murder, and another investigation which resulted in a man being charged with 32 counts of armed robbery.
Despite all the cases he was able to solve, like so many detectives, there is one unsolved case which has haunted him - the murder of a woman in her home in Werribee.
Stationed at Maryborough in 2003, Inspector Payne undertook critically important work in the family violence space, which led the way for the organisation's focus today.
In partnership with the Maryborough Community Health Network, he introduced the first family violence referral network in the state - to refer victims to support services, help them to create safety plans and to walk away from unsafe relationships.
This initiative later won a state government crime prevention award and is one of the initiatives Inspector Payne is most proud of.
When he was moved to Melton, he also established a family violence referral network there, before rolling out similar models across all of Melbourne's western suburbs - long before it became a statewide policing focus.
In his five years in Melton he also set up a range of other cutting-edge proactive policing initiatives such as multicultural and youth support networks.
'Youth Show The Way' is another initiative he is particularly proud of, as is a program about road safety called 'Saving The Ones We Love'.
This involved all convicted hoon drivers at the Sunshine Magistrates Court being required to take part in a program to fulfil their sentence, in which the former state coroner and other road safety partners would highlight the devastating impact of road trauma.
Due to new prisons being set up around the area and the increasing workload for police, he also set up a prison liaison group.
From Melton, he moved up to Ballarat as the Operations Support Manager, before taking on the Tasking and Coordination role which oversaw every unit except for uniform members.
This was later split into two jobs, with Inspector Payne taking on the Investigation Response Manager role, which he worked in until his retirement. This role oversees the Ballarat and Moorabool CIU, crime scene services, SOCIT unit, family violence unit and divisional response unit.
He has worked in the role for the last several years with a focus on crime management, policing for prevention and managing recidivist offenders.
Since his time in the job, the crime rate in Ballarat has continued to drop, with more than 100 high impact offenders being apprehended on his watch since late December last year.
CHANGES TO POLICING
While the type of people who apply to join the force remain the same - people who want to help the community - there have been many other changes.
There are now many more women in the force compared to when he started, while there have also been huge technological advances.
When he started as a young detective, the nightshift staff would use a recycled secondhand high school typewriter to type up the reports from the day, but now technology is indispensable for police - ipads to write reports on the spot, speed camera technology and body worn cameras, while it is also integral to investigation work.
"Technology changes and the force has had to move and change with it," Inspector Payne said.
In the past he has been known to have walked the streets to ask the community about their crime concerns, so it is a side of policing he has always been at the forefront of, though one which he has thoroughly enjoyed, the organisation has also since moved to a more proactive rather than reactive approach with much more community engagement.
"We've realised we've got to connect more with the community and understand what they need, because really the police force is a reflection of the community," Inspector Payne said.
"We've got to be in tune with what the community wants and what they need and what their expectations are of us, and what we need to be doing to meet those expectations."
WHERE TO NEXT?
Moving into retirement, he will miss the camaraderie between his colleagues and being able to work with and help community members.
Being a police officer has been a huge part of my life and it has been such an honour and a privilege for me.Inspector Greg Payne
"Being a police officer has been a huge part of my life and it has been such an honour and a privilege for me," he said.
One of the most important factors to him in his career has been looking after the "remarkable" people he works alongside, especially in Ballarat, where he has built strong relationships with his colleagues, whom he greatly admires and respects.
Inspector Payne and his wife, Elizabeth, have decided to retire at the same time so they can spend more time together on their small farm and to travel the world.
Passionate about harness racing, he wants to spend a lot of time training and breeding horses and will also join a few volunteer organisations.
"I thank all the police officers for their commitment, their dedication, their courage and for their friendship and support and camaraderie over a very long time in my career. Everyone has been wonderful to me and I thank them for all their support and everything they do. They're just amazing people," Inspector Payne said.
Statement from Ballarat Police:
Inspector Payne has been an outstanding contributor to the community and Victoria Police for over 40 years.
He has always put service above himself whether it is community safety, victims and the welfare of his colleagues on the frontline.
His contribution is immeasurable and he will be missed by all of the Ballarat policing community.
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