A RETIRING Marlow inspector has revealed he was inspired to join the force by The Sweeney - and says policing really was like the television drama Life On Mars when he began.

Insp. Ray Wilks stepped aside last Friday after 30 years of service and bid his colleagues farewell at a leaving do on Monday night.

Insp. Wilks has been in charge of Wycombe rural, based at Marlow police station, for about five years.

He told the MFP why he signed up, aged 19.

"I was inspired by the Sweeney, by racing around in fast cars and beating up the bad guys," he said.

His first beat was Maidenhead.

"You were out on foot in all weather in those days, it was a good way to learn the craft of being a police officer," he said.

He moved into various roles before taking over as inspector. Through the years he has been a commander in riot situations, including in London in 2011, marshalled football matches, demos, and a highlight for him was serving as an Olympic commander last year.

The culture of the police is vastly different now, he said.

"Policing represents society, which is constantly changing and evolving," he said.

"When I joined the police force it was like Life on Mars, it really was like that. You look back now and you think 'my God'. But that's exactly the way it was. There were several Gene Hunt type characters that worked back then.

"When you walked through the CID office it was walking through a thick cloud of smoke and there was a bottle of whiskey on every desk.

"Policing has come on a long way since then, it's far more professional nowadays."

The Marlow Bottom resident, 48, said: "It's far better now, far more professional. The police force I joined was completely sexist, completely homophobic and probably a little bit racist as well but it's not like that now.

"Policing, the basics are still the same, and I'd recommend it as a career to anyone. I think there's no greater pleasure in life than nicking and locking up a bad person, whether they robbed an old lady, attacked their partner."

He is satisfied with the job he and his colleagues have done in Marlow.

"Crime is lower than when I first took over," he said.

As for the future, he revealed: "I have long term plans to emigrate somewhere warm. I play golf, very badly, so hopefully I may be able to improve my swing with a bit of time. I might write a bit more, I write crazy things so a bit more of that Mrs Wilks also has a very long list of things which apparently need doing."