Sergeant Dave Sheldrake: A people's policeman

PUBLISHED: 13:02 16 December 2008 | UPDATED: 22:47 15 June 2010

AFTER over 30 years of service, Axminster Sergeant Dave Sheldrake has handed in his police badge.

AFTER over 30 years of service, Axminster Sergeant Dave Sheldrake has handed in his police badge.The 52-year-old sergeant from Exmouth, who served four years at Axminster, will be spending part of his retirement at his second home in Portugal - where he eventually hopes to set up an art gallery with his wife, Alyson.His colleague PC Darren Herridge jokes he is walking into the sunset. However, Sgt Sheldrake has witnessed darker moments in his career - ranging from the miners' strike and the Bristol riots in the 1980s.At times, he admits to being afraid, at others heartened, and sometimes - such as when he was commended for a sea rescue - proud. Early in his career he faced riots in Bristol in 1980, sparked by a drugs raid at the Black and White Cafe.He said: "It came out of the blue and we were sent to Bristol to help take control of the area. It was quite exciting but very scary. There was incredible devastation - burned out buildings everywhere - it was like nothing I had ever seen before or would like to see again."Video footage of him, armed with a riot shield, was used to feature on the World in Action credits - and he muses that is his claim to fame.Shortly after, he faced another tough challenge when he was deployed to South Yorkshire and Derbyshire to tackle the miners' strikes.He said: "It was tough. People were fighting for their jobs and history shows that the mines closed. But it wasn't something I ever felt terribly comfortable with."His long and varied career has included time working as a detective, a police school liaison officer, working at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital as part of the police and hospital partnership, and finally working in Neighbourhood Policing since 1998. Enjoying his role in education, he considered a career change to work as a teacher. He said: "It was almost a mid-life crisis. I loved working with children and, if I didn't have young children at the time, I probably would have made the leap."But he has few regrets about his work in the police force, which was his life-long ambition.As young as nine, Sgt Sheldrake knew he wanted to be a police officer. He even attended an open day with police in Exmouth, without his mother's knowledge.He said: "My mother reported me missing once and spoke to the sergeant. He told her I was sitting on a motorbike in the station. I was promptly told to go home. I've always had the interest, but didn't join until I was 21."He previously worked as a kitchen designer but felt drawn to the police force because he wanted to make a difference in the community."I have always had a very strong sense of right and wrong, of justice, and it pointed me to a career in the police."I get really scared sometimes, I'm human like everybody else, but you try not to show it. "It may be old-fashioned but I like the notion that I serve the local community. It's about relationships, getting to know people and enjoying the neighbourhood side of my work."He admitted the job could be emotionally difficult at times, but satisfying when justice was done.He said he had seen changes in the service, but would still recommend it as a career.He said: "I have always enjoyed getting up and coming to work as you don't know what each day is going to bring. It makes it an interesting job. "I have considered myself, in some ways, to be privileged for having a thoroughly enjoyable career.

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