Retired Murray Bridge officer Ian Rick awarded South Australia Police Service Medal

Ian Rick receives the South Australia Police Service Medal from Commissioner Grant Stevens. Photo: Supplied.
Ian Rick receives the South Australia Police Service Medal from Commissioner Grant Stevens. Photo: Supplied.

A retired officer from Murray Bridge has been awarded South Australian policing's highest honour.

Ian Rick said he was shocked to have received the South Australia Police Service Medal, for "diligent and ethical service", as well as the National Police Service Medal.

The honours were presented by Commissioner Grant Stevens in a ceremony at the SA Police Academy in Adelaide.

"I was shocked, blown away by it," he said.

"They're not handed out willy-nilly, because you have to have exemplary service."

By contrast, anyone who serves 15 years becomes eligible for the national medal, which Mr Rick said was sometimes disparagingly called "Gough's gong" after its prime ministerial creator.

Mr Rick, formerly a sergeant, served 33 years with SA Police prior to his retirement in 1995.

He joined as a cadet on August 6, 1962.

After a three-year cadetship and a spell on general patrols, he was sent to Murray Bridge as a young constable in 1966.

"On my first afternoon shift I got 10 or 12 pinches: headlights, speeding and so on," he said.

"In the city we'd do that all the time, and I thought 'this is easy'.

"I put them in the station log, submitted all the paperwork and got fronted before the inspector the next morning - he said 'I appreciate your zeal, but we're in the country now'."

Instead of arresting or reporting so many people in the community in which he lived, it was better to caution them, he was told.

After that, if he pulled over a drink driver on Swanport Road, he would drop him home and leave the keys to his car at the station.

"You get more respect that way," he said.

"It taught you to rationalise, to listen to what people had to say."

That mindset put him in good stead when he trained in the use of the new breathalyser machines - with top marks among 20 officers from around Australia - and returned to patrols in Adelaide.

These were the days when there were riots against the Vietnam War and widely enforced laws against public drunkenness.

He recalled the friendly relationship he had with regular drinkers at the Carrington Hotel, now the Saracen's Head; and ushering Premier Don Dunstan to safety after he shouted everyone a round but declined to buy a second.

He spent eight years with the criminal investigation branch, a period as an instructor at the academy and a couple of years doing administrative work, but finished back on patrol in Adelaide's south during the 1980s and 90s.

He recommended policing as a career, noting that officers were now able to rise through the ranks without gaining as much life experience, though he said it had become more dangerous and that public respect for police had fallen.

The Standard became aware of Mr Rick's honour, given in December, only after being notified by his mother-in-law, Enid Heidrich, who said she was very proud.

This story 'We're in the country now': how medal-winning policeman learned his soft touch first appeared on The Murray Valley Standard.