First-hand view of wonderful work
February 14, 2013Previous Blogs
I spent two days in Northland last week, seeing at first hand the very well-coordinated operation around the events at Waitangi. It was a time of mainly peaceful celebrations - but don't think for one moment that comes about by luck.
Area Commander Inspector Wendy Robilliard oversaw preparations including weeks of interaction with iwi by iwi liaison officers, while a team of officers under Acting Detective Inspector Kevin Burke organised a focused response to gang issues in the area. When about 27 Tribesman members headed in the direction of Rebels members in Paihia they were quickly diverted from the town centre and the potential for confrontation was ended. Our intelligence units, Auckland Team Policing, Diplomatic Protection Squad and district staff did a magnificent job.
Of particular note was the personable interaction of Police staff with members of the public, which was appreciated by all. I had occasion to speak to the organisers, to the Governor-General and Prime Minister and there's no doubt they were pleased with how matters unfolded. Well done to District Commander Russell Le Prou, Inspector Robilliard, Acting Detective Inspector Burke and all personnel involved. Credit is also due to members of the public, whose general good humour helped ensure our national day passed without major disruption.
It's impossible to think of policing Waitangi without thinking of Sergeant Paddy Whiu, who was a mainstay of the event for so long. Our thoughts are with his whänau today, the day of his tangi. It was very special to be able to present Paddy with a Silver Merit Award at his home in Northland on Waitangi Day. His relationship-building was second to none, whether he was working in the district, as liaison in a sensitive case elsewhere or facilitating training nationally. We've lost an outstanding ambassador, but he leaves a wonderful legacy.
While I was away from Wellington I had the sort of insight into policing from the public's point of view that Commissioners don't usually get. Sadly, it was in tragic circumstances. I was due to meet friends, a husband and wife, for breakfast the following day but received a call at 2am informing me the husband had died suddenly. I left immediately to drive over to support the family but was stopped shortly down the road and given a breath-test. I drove on and a little further along, as luck would have it, was again stopped. I mentioned to the officer that I had just been tested, and he said it didn't matter, he was doing it again. I thought "Good on you". I would have insisted upon being tested again anyway.
When I reached my destination I saw first-hand the compassion and empathy of Police and other emergency workers in relation to the widow. It was a wonderful testament to the work of our staff, both in the professionalism of the officers who stopped me - without fear or favour! - and in the actions of those dealing with my friend's unexpected death. With this experience fresh in my mind, it's no surprise we maintain such a high level of public trust and confidence in our Citizen's Satisfaction Survey.
You may have seen publicity around the national launch yesterday of our Mobility project. Around 6500 frontline officers will receive smartphones and in some cases tablets. It's a major investment but the Prime Minister's involvement at the launch underlines its importance to the whole country. These devices let officers perform checks and other tasks on the spot which once meant a trip back to the police station. From our trials we anticipate each officer will save around 30 minutes a shift, to be used for policing instead of paperwork. Mobility is a 21st century tool which enhances the traditional policing skills - and no technology will ever replace our primary tool, our communication skills.
I'm in Christchurch today for the opening of the new Christchurch Central Police Station in St Asaph Street. Clearing the site, then building and occupying the station in just ten months has been a remarkable achievement which reflects the ability of our staff and others locally to respond to the changes forced upon them. It also reflects our commitment to provide the best possible policing services - we look forward to years of working with the community from this new base.
Stay safe and look after each other.