Wednesday, 13 September 2023 - 2:30pm

'No regrets'

4 min read

News article photos (2 items)

Sergeant Craig Lindstrom has retired from New Zealand Police after 40 years.
Sergeant Craig Lindstrom in uniform.

A 1986 appraisal of Te Kuiti Police stalwart Craig Lindstrom noted he was a “first class member of Police who has an uncanny ability to get on with anybody”.

This still stands 37 years later.

As he sits in a chair in the lunchroom of the home station, beneath an array of photos that date back to the '80s, the veteran police sergeant reflects on his 40-year career that started on the streets of South Auckland and will finish in the rolling hills of the King Country.

At 60 years old the time is right, he says.

“I’ve really enjoyed my career and I think I can leave with a personal satisfaction in what I’ve done. I have no regrets. I’ll miss the people on both sides of the fence.”

Growing up in Northland where his father – Gus Lindstrom – was a detective sergeant in charge of Armed Offenders Squad, policing was the last thing on Craig’s mind.

As the fifth of six children, he had a bustling childhood of sports and adventure. After school, he went on to Otago University intending to study physical education and commerce. But after a few years, he realised university wasn’t for him.

“I think a lack of knowing what I really wanted to do – so that’s when I started thinking about Police.”

He attended Police College in Porirua and graduated in Wing 87 in 1983.

The streets of south Auckland in the early '80s was an interesting place. Villains, crooks and burglars kept the front line busy. Youth crime was rampant.

“I didn’t know what to expect, some of it was a bit shell-shocking. There would be hundreds of youths gathering in the town centre in the early hours of night and day.”

Craig worked the beat out of Otahuhu and then out of Otara, Howick and Mangere.

"At the time you’d have about 20 officers on section – several of them with 20 years’ service," he says.

“We didn’t always have radio contact on the beat and would have to check in with our sergeant at a rendezvous on a half-hour to hourly basis." 

It’s a bit different these days with advances in technology and mobility.

Craig and his wife Robyn married in 1988 and decided to travel the world - taking leave without pay for 20 months to travel through the United States, Europe, Africa and Asia.

That’s how he found his way to Te Kuiti. Upon his return to New Zealand, Craig drew the “little brown envelope” that led him south, to the sheep shearing heartland.

“I had to look on the map to see where it was. There were five frontline and one senior sergeant – so we used to combine with the guys in Te Awamutu.”

Becoming a community cop in a small town has been a humbling experience, he says.

It’s taken heart, communication, patience and understanding – and the ability to think on your feet – to police the isolated King Country landscape.

There’s been gang flares, horrific road crashes, escalating family violence and the scourge of methamphetamine.

“It can be difficult at times," says Craig. "You have personal connections and personal knowledge of offenders and victims, but that can also assist in breaking down barriers that they may have.”

There was always time for a bit of tomfoolery in the station too.

Waitomo News clipping from 1997, with a photo of Criag and the headline 'Wild goose chase ends with medal"

A Waitomo News story in 1997, pictured right, notes that Craig was led around town on a “Wild Goose Chase” following fake leads, while his colleagues arranged the presentation of his 14-year long service and good conduct medal.

“I had no idea, I was well and truly fooled,” he is quoted as saying at the time.

Craig promoted to sergeant in 1999 and is known as a positive role model for constables – one who makes sound decisions and has a genuine interest in the progress and welfare of his staff.

A commendation letter from one of his constables notes: “Sergeant Lindstrom’s administrative ability, knowledge and professionalism is a platform for each of the staff to aspire to, and his hard work and drive motivates people to give their best.”

People are at the heart of what Craig does.

“I enjoy being able to mentor the young ones coming through and provide that guidance and support," he says. 

Any advice for current staff? “Listen to the grey-haired old buggers,” he laughs.

“Policing is changing rapidly – the frequency of situations and access to firearms - and I feel for the young ones coming up and facing that.”

Possibly one of the most controversial policing moments was a town curfew for youth. It was more of a strategy whereby youngsters found in the township late at night were picked up and taken home.

“People still talk about it.”

One of Craig's proudest achievements was his involvement in the social sector trials - a multi-agency bottom-up response to community needs.

“It ran for several years targeting youth engagement, education and employment – removing some of the barriers that communities face, like access to transport or various services. It’s still going in a different form.”

Craig raised his three children in Te Kuiti and never had an issue being the local cop. He’s often had people turn up to his home seeking assistance and locals presenting at the counter asking specifically for “Lindstrom”.

“It’s a great little community, and the lifestyle that comes with it," says Craig. 

“I will miss the camaraderie – the people. But I won’t miss the conflicts.”

What would his late father think now...? “Pretty sure he would be proud.”