Former Chief Commissioner Mick Miller presents Echo Taskforce Detective Senior Sergeant Wayne Cheesman with the 2014 Detective of The Year Award.

Former Chief Commissioner Mick Miller presents Echo Taskforce Detective Senior Sergeant Wayne Cheesman with the 2014 Detective of The Year Award.

For a convicted drug dealer and bikie boss Jay Malkoun can be exceedingly polite so when the detective rang for a chat, Jay suggested they meet for a convivial coffee at the Comanchero's South Melbourne clubhouse.

Clearly the president wanted to break the ice with his new nemesis rather than wait for his members to be arrested dealing in it.

The policeman was Detective Senior Sergeant Wayne Cheesman, a foundation member of the Echo outlaw motorcycle taskforce. The bikie welcoming committee that day consisted of Jay, Comanchero heavyweight Mick Murray and two steroid munching intimidators.

"He sent out for lattes and gave me a tour. In the boardroom he joked that this is where we should put the listening devices as it is where they hold their business discussions."

"In mid conversation he said to me, 'Wayne, we'll work with you, but if you harass us, some of your guys will get murdered'."

"I think he was testing to see my reaction."

The physically imposing policeman responded, not by quoting Churchill from the Battle of Britain or Sun Tzu from the Art of War, but Doris Day from Que Sera Sera, with, "What will be will be, Jay'."

When asked what sort of resources the taskforce could muster Cheesman made it clear he could call on what he needed to outnumber the bikies.

It was a typical outlaw bikie tactic to probe the enemy to see if they had the will for a drawn out fight.

After all, Victoria Police walked away once before, deciding the investigating outlaw motorcycle gang organised crime was too hard, too expensive and should be discreetly ignored.

In the late 1970s under the then Chief Commissioner Mick Miller Victoria ran the first serious organised probe into bikies, code named Wingclipping and the first drug investigation into the Hells Angels code named Omega.

But years later police suggested bikies were no longer a problem. It was a disastrous policy that enabled the gangs to open more new franchises than Subway and to infiltrate the trucking, building, security and debt collecting businesses.

While the rest of Australia was investigating bikie crime, Victoria became known to OMCGs as Switzerland – because it was seen as a safe haven.

Then the inevitable happened – a turf war with drive by shootings on buildings, businesses and finally key bikies. The headline stories made editors glad, bikies mad and politicians sad. And when the Bandidos and Hells Angels headed to open war police were forced to take their heads out of the sand and draw a line in it.

In late 2010 Cheesman was selected as a key member of the proposed Echo Taskforce.

Since then he has become a pivotal member who deals directly with bikie bosses and is now recognised internationally as one of only two OMCG experts in Australia.

The circle was in some way was completed a couple of weeks ago when Cheesman was presented with the prestigious Mick Miller Detective of the Year award presented by the former chief himself.

It could have so easily ended differently as Cheesman's dive into the deep end of law enforcement began with an ungainly bellyflop.

He joined the police force in 1987 straight from Wesley Grammar and by his own admission was out of his depth. "About three weeks before graduation from the academy I got a tap on the shoulder and it was suggested I should go and get some life experience. I was booted out.

"It was the right decision, I didn't have the discipline or the maturity at the time. I was a soft private schoolboy, a mummy's boy really."

What he did have was a determination to learn. He worked behind the bar in pubs and then bounced on the door where he developed the knack of dealing with people who were delighted, distracted or temporarily disoriented.

In 1989 he returned for a second crack and breezed through the course. While, like all junior police, he was assigned to various uniformed duties, he was destined to become a detective.

As a student at the first field investigators' course he was awarded the inaugural Most Promising Investigator award before stints at the drug and homicide squads.

Do we dare say this is a classic case of a soft cheese maturing into a hard cheese and finally taking the biscuit? We do.

Since the beginning of 2011 his brief has been bad bikies. "I am often asked, 'Are they really that bad? and I can tell you the answer to that question is, 'Yes, they are'."

"They are organised crime groups, pure and simple."

Not every cop wants to chase bikies. It is confronting and dangerous with the suspects well schooled in police tactics and usually represented by handy lawyers. They are, in reality, a pain in the neck.

For years some of the outlaw gang members would sometimes refuse to wear helmets on bike runs, turned their clubhouses into unlicensed bars, stood-over legitimate business competitors, corrupted police and other officials and had access to military grade firearms.

In Victoria we now have 26 gangs with 52 chapters and 1300 patched members supported by several hundred camp followers. Since its inception, Echo has raided hundreds of properties, seized drugs, cash, gelignite, stun guns, ballistic vest and around 200 firearms. It is also clear that key bikies have stockpiled weapons hidden in safehouse or kept with associates. "They seem to have no trouble becoming armed when they feel the need," Cheesman says.

Not all bikies are rich crooks. Most join for the comradeship while key figures use the secretive and violent culture to hide their criminal activities. Many, police say, remain foot soldiers drawn by a sense of belonging and for status. In return they must follow orders without question.

But there is an interesting fringe benefits package.

Cheesman asked an ex-Hells Angels member overseas what was the attraction. "He said that as soon as you get your colours you are treated as a rock star. You get cocaine, hookers and are picked up at the airport anywhere in the world." (Just like a newspaper columnist, really.)

Echo's aim is not to destroy outlaw motorcycle gangs but control the criminal by-product. This involves both top end organised crime investigations and dosing mundane spot fires.

Surprisingly there is common ground between gangs and cops with many of the presidents meeting Cheesman on the quiet.

"They are smart enough to know there needs to be dialogue," he says. In one case when there was the chance of a gang war office holders told police of the likely shooters so they could be arrested "before we have to up the ante."

"They put the onus back on us to stop the problem," Cheesman says.

Echo has forced bikie groups to change tactics. "Some have told us they will lower their profile and try to wait us out."

Now Echo can't target every bikie group every day and, in the law enforcement version of the squeaky wheel gets the grease, it is now a case of the loudmouth bikie gets the heat.

"I tell the presidents, I will hold them responsible for the actions of their members. If one plays up we will target that chapter, set up road blocks and remind them that no-one is above the law."

A publican concerned when bikies start drinking there may be too frightened to approach them directly. "We will talk to them and suggest they drink at their clubhouse or we will move in," says Cheesman.

Some are experts, he says, at infiltrating legitimate businesses. "They can start as customers, then demand free drinks, then say they will provide the security and then put in a silent manager."

Local police look to Canada to show what happens when bikie gangs turn a foothold into a stranglehold.

In 1994, the Hells Angels and rival gang Rock Machine went to war in Quebec over control of the local drug market. In the next eight years it would claim 160 lives including an 11-year-old boy killed by shrapnel from a car bombing.

Eventually police arrested 150 bikies on murder related offences.

"They have an underground court connected to the jail," Cheesman says.

"The trials are being broken up into groups, will take ten years and cost about $500 million."

And as for Jay Malkoun, who tried to intimidate Cheesman back in 2011. He took a career tree change, ironically choosing a place without too many trees. He resigned as Comanchero president, swapped his Harley Davidson for a dune buggy and putted of to Dubai to run an advanced children learning centre.

His replacement Mick Murray also decided the outlaw bikie world has lost its appeal. He quit to concentrate on his legitimate businesses, but not before he was hit with a $10 million tax bill.