It was a real eye-opener to spend time with Tony Ferguson, the 39th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers.

Tony, who’s been in the NSW Police Force since 1987, made me realise just how physically and intellectually demanding it can be to serve as a cop.

The intellectual stimulation comes from regular changes of location and role. Right now, Tony oversees a vast radio network, and manages a $40-million budget and 480-person team – something he never imagined doing when he joined the force.

It’s also an intellectual challenge dealing with members of the public who are acting aggressively. Why? Because you need to understand the other person’s psychology if you want to deescalate the situation.

Speaking of aggression, I was shocked to discover just how often members of the public get physical with the police. A cop on the beat might put their body on the line every shift. Dealing with someone who is angry, and perhaps under the influence of drugs or alcohol, can be dangerous work.

If Tony was a TV character, he’d probably be a grizzled veteran. But he turned out to be the exact opposite – warm, open and quick to laugh.