Bush cop hangs up his cuffs after four decades of policing

NEW ADVENTURES: Well-liked cop Des Hansson said he will miss the mates he has made in the small outback community. Picture: Lydia Lynch.
NEW ADVENTURES: Well-liked cop Des Hansson said he will miss the mates he has made in the small outback community. Picture: Lydia Lynch.

Des Hansson loves his job as a bush cop but the time has come for him to hang up his handcuffs. 

Queensland police officers are required to leave the force by their 60th birthday unless they are in commissioned roles.

“I feel like I am just hitting my prime,” Sen Constable Hansson said. 

The brawny, straight-shooting copper has run the one-man police station in McKinlay for the past six years. 

“I had never been to McKinlay before, the farthest I had travelled was to Longreach. 

“I have really enjoyed all the community work out here. People in McKinlay are extremely resilient and it has been the most humbling experience to work here.”

Sen Constable Hansson began his policing career at 19 in the western suburbs of Sydney. 

BYE DES: The time has come for Sen Constable Hansson to retire from his single cop posting in McKinlay. Picture: Lydia Lynch.

BYE DES: The time has come for Sen Constable Hansson to retire from his single cop posting in McKinlay. Picture: Lydia Lynch.

“Policing was a lot more hands on back in those days. I joined the tactical response group who managed riots and went inside dangerous homes of drug dealers. The level of camaraderie was very high.”

But after more than 10 years with the NSW police, Hansson was fed up with internal politics and decided to quit the force. 

He packed his bags and moved to the Sunshine Coast where he started up his own courier business. 

“I was jaded by policing so I decided to move to Queensland and try to become a normal human. 

“After four years my business went broke and we were struggling to make ends meet. I worked in hotels and for a steel reinforcing company, but in 1994 I decided to join the Queensland police.”

He spent the next 18 years protecting the people of Caloundra. 

But after raising his family there, he began to grow tired of coastal policing. 

“Nobody calls the police when they are having a good time and so I started to get sick of dealing with drug affected families and domestic violence,” Hansson said.

“I was probably battling a bit of PTSD.”

Post traumatic stress disorder is not uncommon in the police force and their suicide rate is much higher than the general population.

Hansson remembers the night that tipped him over the edge. 

It was around the time his eldest daughter had just left home to start university. 

Hansson was one of the first responders at a gruesome car crash which had killed a young woman. 

“When I got back to the office I just broke down and cried for an hour. Before that night I thought the things I was seeing at work had not affected me,” he said. 

“I think she reminded me of my daughter.

“The hardest part of the job is having to tell a parent that their child is dead. I decided I had had enough of that lifestyle and realised I could let me mental health continue to deteriorate or make a change so I decided to move out bush.

When I got back to the office I just broke down and cried for an hour.

Des Hansson.

“I used to dread working Friday nights in Caloundra and dealing with unpleasant situations all night. I have relaxed and feel a lot better out here,” Hansson said. 

The larrakin copper found his 15 minutes of international fame in the bush. 

In a video viewed by millions, Hansson cheered on the McKinlay River which was flowing for the first time in years. 

Since moving to the north west Hansson has thrown himself into community policing. 

He has chaired committees, held fundraisers and lobbied for more government funding. The well-liked cop said he will miss the mates he has made in the small outback community. 

“I will miss Bill Cameron the most. He is an 82-year-old who owns a cattle station and is a prime example of how tough people are out here.”

“It has just been so good. I wish I could keep working.”