Policing runs in families but, with the graduation of Wing 368, one family is taking it to a new level.
When Constable Atu-He-Vahanoa Halatoa stepped up to receive the Commissioner’s Award for Leadership, she was following a remarkable family tradition.
Last month, her husband Constable Maelega Lilo received the same award as he graduated with Wing 367. And that’s not all - in February 2022 her brother-in-law, Maelega’s brother Constable Savali Maelega Lilo, received the Leadership Award with Wing 350.
But wait, there’s more - Savali’s partner Constable Rebecca Knowles is also a police officer, having graduated from Wing 356 in August 2022.
Making the customary Leadership Award winner’s address at the graduation – as Maelega and Savali had before her – Atu said: “Last year my brother-in-law spoke about the powers to serve and protect our communities. Then last month my husband talked about passion to serve.
“Today I’m going to take it a step further and talk about perseverance… because it’s helped in my personal life and it’s a very important aspect of our journey as new police officers.
“We all face challenges in life. Some are tougher than others but, no matter what our obstacles are, perseverance is essential to overcoming them and improving our lives and the lives of those around us.”
Atu was one of 48 new constables graduating in front of whānau, friends and other wellwishers in the ceremony at Te Rauparaha Arena, Porirua on 27 July. They joined their districts this week.
Among those on the dais were Commissioner Andrew Coster, Minister of Police Ginny Andersen and Wing Patron, Chief Judge Christina Inglis.
Speakers included Police Minister Ginny Andersen, Commissioner Andrew Coster and Patron Chief Judge Christina Inglis.
“Each of you brings something unique into this important role you’re stepping into,” said Chief Judge Inglis. “You come from very different backgrounds and life experiences. And many of you have made significant personal sacrifices to be here.
“But something I know from speaking to you that you all have in common is a desire to contribute to the public service.”
She drew a comparison between the work of judges and police, both of which rely on public trust.
"They deal with a vast array of people and situations, often very complex, and more often than not human frailties are at the centre.
“It is an absolutely crucial part of our respective jobs not to make assumptions; to understand that things are not always as they first appear; that nobody is wholly good or wholly bad.
“That everybody has a back story and that everybody in this country - no matter what they’ve done and no matter what they may be suspected of having done - has an unquestionable right to be treated with dignity and respect, particularly by those who exercise official power and control over them."
In his speech, Commissioner Coster picked up on the theme of trust: "We need to be very clear – these powers are vested in us by the people of New Zealand and are considerable.
"We cannot be successful in policing without the trust and support of the communities we serve. We rely on the people of New Zealand to support what Police stand for and what we do."
He thanked Chief Judge Inglis for her support of the wing during a number of visits, which included sitting in on their suspect interviewing practical.
"You’ve shared personal moments with the wing too – listening to their experiences as recruits over a cup of tea and even having our youngest in the wing play and sing Piano Man for you," he said. "I’m sure you and the wing will look back at these moments fondly."
The Minister’s Award for Top of Wing went to Constable Wayne Wilson, who was born in Zimbabwe and moved to New Zealand seven years ago.
He has a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Management with Technology and previously worked for Police as a communicator in the Southern Emergency Communications Centre.
“Police attracted me through the idea that what I would be doing in my working life would be making an impact for the better,” he says. “It’s why I am excited to have the opportunity to get started in this career.”
Constable Alexander Williams, recipient of the Patron’s Award for Second in Wing, has a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in Political Studies and Philosophy and was previously a Logistics Specialist in the Royal New Zealand Airforce.
“I’ve joined Police because I want to work more with people and serve my community and country.”
Alexander brought his own whānau links, on a day of many family connections.
“Thanks to the influence of my wife and brother-in-law, who are also police, I really want better work stories and I am looking forward to getting out there.”
Members of Wing 368 included keen sports people, many who had held volunteer positions, many with tertiary educations, extensive skills and qualifications or previous experience with Police or other service organisations.
Find out more about the wing and its make-up after this slideshow of more images from the day...
About Wing 368
Minister’s Award for First in Wing – Constable Wayne Wilson (Canterbury)
Patron’s Award for Second in Wing - Constable Alexander Williams (Waitematā)
Commissioner’s Award for Leadership – Constable Atu-He-Vahanoa Halatoa (Counties Manukau)
Physical Training and Defensive Tactics Award – Constable Matthew Hicks (Central)
Driver Training and Road Policing Practice Award – Constable Keegan Martin (Wellington)
Firearms Award – Constable Kyle Gordon (Wellington)
Members are dispersed as follows:
Auckland City – 4; Counties Manukau – 6; Waitematā – 6; Waikato – 1; Bay of Plenty – 6; Eastern – 1; Central – 5; Wellington – 6; Tasman – 1; Canterbury – 9; Southern – 3.
The youngest wing member was 19, the oldest 37.
22.9% of wing members are female, and 77.1% male. New Zealand European make up 70.8% of the wing, with Māori 6.3%, Pasifika 20.8% and Asian 2.1%.