End of an era…

After 35 years of policing, Senior Constable Lee Jones hangs up his hat

After 35 years of policing, Senior Constable Lee Jones hangs up his hat

By Senior Constable Mick Emery

Senior Constable Lee Jones. Also known as: Leapin Leroy; The Vulture; The Colonel; The Mexican; Santa Claus; Ned Flanders; Happy Gilmour (OK I’m making some of these up!). The point is, he has been called a lot of different things over the years – not all of them nice! But that’s hardly surprising when he’s been at the coalface of policing for over 35 years…

Back in 1983, before any of this name calling had started, Malcolm Fraser was the PM, BMX Bandits introduced us to Nicole Kidman and Bryan Adams was on the radio, as a 21-year-old Cadet Jones marched into the Police Academy. Back then he was 182cm tall and weighed in at 90kg…he’s a little heavier now, so maybe he’s a bit taller?

For his academy instructors, Cadet Jones was mentored by rugby league legends Mal Meninga and Wayne Bennett, and the mix of these two perhaps best accounts for his style of policing: the presence of Meninga and the conversational style of Bennett!

Yet, much like Bennett, when you listen carefully to Leroy there is always a dry, witty humour… delivered by his trademark monotone voice and deadpan expression. Often mistaken for being ‘grumpy’, Leroy is – rather – simply content to be a man of few words…

Of course, there have also been times when some have been on the receiving end of ‘grumpy Leroy’ – but even then, they are usually subject to humour that goes over their heads…

A well-known local drunk found himself in the Gympie Watch House for the umpteenth time. As he emerged from the paddy wagon he staggered and slurred “What am I being charged with?” to which Leroy’s deadpan reply was: “Stealing.”

The drunk looked confused and quizzed “What have I stolen?” – to which Leroy replied simply: “Oxygen!”.

Rookie Jones learnt pretty early that there is no point trying to reason with drunks, and he got plenty of exposure to them at City Station, Fortitude Valley, and then on to Central Queensland stations including Rockhampton, Woorabinda and Capella.

It was during these formative years that the internet began – and Constable Jones ‘embraced’ the new technology: perfecting a two-finger typing technique that became the hallmark of his slow (but meticulous) paperwork.

Outside of work, 1987 was the year that he proved irresistible to a certain blonde hairdresser, who was even prepared to move to Rockhampton. Underneath his hard exterior, Shelly found what those close to him know: the sense of humour, his love of a party, the Boston Red Sox and all things American – not to mention a finely manicured moustache.

By the time she found out he shared her love of country music, there was a ‘country road to take them home’…all the way to Rainbow Beach.

“It may not have been Urban, but there was a lot of Keiths”, Leroy recalls of their move here in 1990.

Initially stationed at Gympie, Lee is still remembered fondly by the ‘old guard’ at Gympie Station, and it was there that his 27-year love affair with the Gympie Country Music Muster began. However, it’s fair to say that even back then his main sights were set on making his home town a better place – a town which at that stage did not see too many police cars.

“There was no police station at Rainbow Beach in those days, and it was a bit like an overgrown garden that gets no maintenance – you could say the weeds were out of control,” recalls Sergeant Grieve… “and a good dose of roundup came in the form of Lee Jones.”

Unregistered and unroadworthy cars (once a common sight) disappeared from the streets, as did numerous drink drivers. With his transfer to Tin Can Bay station in 1999, drug dealers started to receive some attention and rumours circulated that Leroy kept a list of names in a black book… if your name was in it – you’d be better off leaving town!

I cannot confirm or deny the existence of such a list. However, I have observed some of Leroy’s ‘clients’ leave and – coincidentally – the town has become a better place!

Making this area a better place is something Leroy has been committed to for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it was the town that he and Shelly chose to raise their two children.

Both Jack and Jordi can be immensely proud of their old man for his role in their lives, and the fact that he has contributed so much to their hometown.

Separate from policing, Leroy has played a significant role in the Rainbow Beach community in a volunteer capacity. Even a cursory glance at the honour board at the Sports Club reflects his role on the committee from 1991 and as secretary from 1996 – 2018, not to mention his role as a very witty MC during the annual Fishing Comp.

All of the above is just one snapshot of a 35-year career for which this short column could never hope to do justice. There are many, many stories that are perhaps best told over a few beers sitting around a fire on the beach at sunset (a Jones family favourite thing to do).

If you get the chance, join with me in saying “thanks for your service” to Senior Constable Lee Jones. I reckon he’ll just nod and say something like “roger”…which is his way of saying… “you’re welcome.”