Leading Senior Constable Phil White from Moonee Ponds Police Station talks about his 46 years in the force, and why he’s still going at 70 years of age
Introduction: Cop still the beat at age 70
Ross Greenwood: I’ll tell you what, there are some people in our community that should be celebrated. Quite clearly, members of our defense forces, those people on the front lines, when there’s accidents around the place. Of course, our police officers, they’re people look we should respect, look up to and revere all over the place. Of course, the real issue for many of those people who are really at the front line of many of these biggie, they can be very physical jobs.
We know that there are certain dangers in many of those occupations. You think about say firefighters, for example. The question is at what age is the transitions to maybe a management style role or something like that. I’ll tell what, there is one fabulous example of the fact that as a population, as we age, that you do need very senior people with lots of experience in some of those key roles.
Now the bloke I want to introduce you to is Leading Senior Constable Phil White. He’s recently celebrated his 70th birthday with a barbecue at the Moonee Ponds Police Station. The Moonee Ponds Police Station is where Phil White, works as a fully operational Leading Senior Constable. He’s on line right now. Many thanks for your time Phil appreciate your time very much.
Interview: Senior Constable Phil White, Victorian Police
Phil White: No worries, Ross.
Ross Greenwood: Just explain to me, 70 years old, a police officer, did you ever have any idea that there maybe retirement age was a bit earlier than this or what was the story?
Phil White: I really liked the job. I just keep on going and I’m going all right so far.
Ross Greenwood: Obviously, the lesson here is you got to keep your fitness, you got to keep you your agility. You got to be able to keep or obviously up with younger people on the job as well. That’s all part of the challenge, but the basic aspects of policing that you’re involved with, a lot of that would not have changed greatly over the years?
Phil White: No not really. Obviously, the younger blokes do a lot of the hard work while I just give them a bit of advice.
Ross Greenwood: From that point of view, explain how you got into policing in the first place?
Phil White: I joined the police force in 1971. I went to the army in 1968. I went to Vietnam in ’68, ’69. When I came back I did country for a little while but there was no set jobs or any of the full-time steady work. I decided to join the police force.
Ross Greenwood: The thing that I know, having done some community awareness of policing in the community, some of those courses that are done, the scope and the breadth of activities the police officers can be involved in.. People don’t really recognize just the diversity of skills of people require inside the police force?
Phil White: That’s right, you’ve got to learn event on the job in. When I join that’s what you had to do, you learn on the job. You didn’t get much schooling. It’s, go in and do the work and learn as you go.
Ross Greenwood: You’ve been in Moonee Ponds, which is the inner suburb in the west of Melbourne. The point about Moonee Ponds, such an interesting, such a callable place to be and so many different characters and of course over the years, there’s a bit of wealth come into the place. It’s become a little gentrified. It’s a fascinating place to have really had yourself based since 1980s.
Phil White: Yes, I find it’s a very good area. I know quite a few people. Dealt with a good few people and I’ve had a fair amount of respect and which is good for the community.
Ross Greenwood: Tell me about keeping yourself fit, if you had to do that over the years. Obviously, there be fitness assessments and so forth on our police officers. In regards, how have you managed to do that as you’ve got into your late 60’s and so forth?
Phil White: I just keep walking, no real strenuous exercise now. I used to do a bit of running and bit of weight work and that. Now it’s just a bit of walking just to try and keep the weight off.
Ross Greenwood: The reason I’m asking that is because there are going to be more people in the future, be they in the police or a range of other occupations. Who are going to have to work we’re told now, that people will largely younger people today work until they’re at least 70. When you hear that, what do you think about that you are an example of somebody who’s accomplished that in what could otherwise be seen to be a relatively stressful job?
Phil White: Yes some people might struggle a bit but it all depends how their mental attitude is. They’ve got to keep a good mental attitude and say, well this is what I’m going to do and you got to love the job. If you don’t love the job, you won’t do it.
Ross Greenwood: There’s no doubt about that. Just explain the mental attitude. One of the things is you are dealing with a lot of younger people, you’re dealing with a lot of changes in technology and so forth. Is that something that you’ve got to embrace?
Phil White: Yes that’s right. I get that, especially on computers and modern technology. I have to get the young blokes to show me what to do. It’s a challenging job sometimes but no I try to keep up with it.
Ross Greenwood: There’s another thing also about this is that clearly one of the reasons why the government is so keen for people to work later into their lives is because therefore it takes the burden off the state and all that type of thing, in regards to pensions. It obviously helps you, your family and all that sort of stuff. The fact that you’ve been able to remain at work as long as you have been able to.
Phil White: I got a good family. We all get on all right. There’re no worries at the moment.
Ross Greenwood: Tell me about dealing with the stresses of the job because that’s the other thing. You’ve got to have as you point out that mental attitude. I guess it comes down to experience to a certain extent as well, doesn’t it?
Phil White: That’s right, this experience went when I first joined the job is here you talk to people. If you talk to people and get them on your side, tell them what’s going on, what’s going to happen, you’ll find out that they react pretty good. If you go there and say listen no one’s going to arrest you and do nothing, they get a bit upset and that’s when you get a little trouble. You’ve got to weigh up the situation and usually just talking to people. That works out all right.
Ross Greenwood: I’ve got to say it’s terrific to have you on the program. I think it’s a wonderful example of what many more Australians are going to have to deal with and understand into the future. That is somebody who is now celebrating their 70th birthday, an age that now the government says every person should ultimately have to work towards. Leading Senior Constable Phil White is a living example of that. Still going the Moonee Ponds Police Station, great place and you can hear, got the spark for the job as well. Phil, we appreciate your time here on the program today.
Phil White: Always.