Leanne Cheeseman always knew she wanted to become a police officer and it was her dedication and passion in investigating offences against children and the most vulnerable in the community that forged her 40-year career.
The Bundaberg Police Detective Sergeant joined Oxley Police Academy in 1980 and has taken on many roles across many districts throughout her service.
From general duties officer in Rockhampton to joining the arson squad and also following an investigative career in the Child Abuse Unit, Det Sgt Cheeseman's experience has been vast.
Next week she will retire from QPS at Bundaberg Police Station after dedicating 24 years of her 40-year role to investigating offences against children.
To add one last feather in her cap before retirement, Leanne has been acknowledged by her peers through the nomination of a Queensland Police Exemplary Conduct Medal.
The medal is awarded to an officer who has demonstrated exemplary conduct in a specific role or duty which enhances the professional image of the QPS far exceeding what might be reasonably expected from an efficient member of the service.
Coming up to her retirement, Leanne has reflected on her time with QPS and why she decided to become a police officer.
“I had always wanted to be in the police as the diversity of the work and ability to do and see things you would not normally encounter appealed to me,” Det Sgt Leanne said.
“TV shows like Division 4, Adam 12 and Policewoman probably were somewhat influential back in my more youthful days.
“I was particularly drawn to investigating crimes against children more so than juvenile offending.
“I was very interested in investigating contact paedophilia and protracted child abuse matters.”
Det Sgt Cheeseman is currently the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) representative for Bundaberg and Maryborough districts and has completed three separate stints, and 11 years, in the region.
During her career, Det Sgt Cheeseman has played a pivotal role in cracking many serious cases, including Operation Gecko in the Logan area during the 1990s.
“Operation GECKO was a protracted investigation over about four years,” she said.
“It centred around organised paedophilia which encompassed approximately 42 child victims and a number of offenders.”
Bundaberg Police Inspector Anne Vogler said Det Sgt Cheeseman led the take down of offenders within Operation GECKO.
She said it was cases such as this that drove Leanne’s career and took her to the extreme north of the state and back.
“Through her career she has worked tirelessly for the most vulnerable members of our community, providing a voice when they did not have one,” she said.
“She is an ‘old school' detective who wears her heart on her sleeve and takes pride in her role.”
“Her dedication to investigations against children over 24 years of her 40-year career has been exemplary.”
Bundaberg a special place for Det Sgt Cheeseman in police career
Det Sgt Cheeseman said her 11 years in Bundaberg had been made especially memorable due to the support she received from her colleagues in and and outside the office.
“Being in a smaller town like Bundaberg assists in fostering close relationships in the workplace and creates a caring and nurturing environment where we support each other during those jobs that are often challenging, stressful, abhorrent and emotive,” she said.
“The staff at Bundaberg station have been very supportive of me, especially during the 2013 floods when our house had eight feet of water through it and we lost everything we owned.
“Insurance did not cover us so staff from the CPIU office and a few other police assisted with the clean up, supplied clothes and other necessities for us and one officer even organised the donation of a water tank.”
Empathy a big part of police role
Looking back on her career, Det Sgt Cheeseman said she believed her empathy had played a huge role in how she was able to handle certain situations.
She also attributed the support from her colleagues and family as a major motivator during her QPS journey.
“I have the ability to be empathetic without being emotive whilst investigating matters,” she said.
“I have also been fortunate enough to have worked with some fantastic colleagues and I have a wonderful and supportive husband, daughter and family.”
Det Sgt Cheeseman said while times in policing had changed, there was one thing that had remained the same during her four decades of service.
“Police are ordinary people who have chosen to do the often unimaginable in a sometimes ungrateful and dangerous environment,” she said.
“Often a simple thankyou from a member of the public can change what has been an already trying day.”
Det Sgt Leanne Cheeseman will celebrate her retirement from QPS at the Bundaberg Police Station on Monday, 4 April, which also happens to be her 60th birthday.