Thursday, 22 July 2021 - 1:45pm

People of Police: Brian, Senior Sergeant, Southern District Command Centre

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People of Police logo and two overlapping colour photos of Brian, all on a dark blue background.

Inspired by the Humans of New York photoblog, we’re showcasing some of the incredible stories and experience of people throughout our organisation.

Brian, Senior Sergeant, Southern District Command Centre

At the end of high school, I went straight to Police College as a wide-eyed young cadet. After graduating, I was posted to Invercargill. Such was my youth that I had to wait six months until I was granted my arresting powers on my 19th birthday.

Invercargill had a bit of the wild west in it back then. There were a lot of young single men with money in their pockets who tended to over-socialise in the beer halls that had a pool table in the middle for everyone to fight over. And they did. Often.

I transferred to Dunedin just in time for floods, landslips, police officers being taken hostage, and mass shootings.

At the first opportunity, I joined the Police Search and Rescue (SAR) squad. I got to spend a lot of time working with Police SAR volunteers, often asking for their help with challenging tasks.

I’d ask their smiling faces to scramble up a steep hillside into gale force winds in the middle of the night, and they’d come back with even bigger smiles.

Their happiness in helping inspired me to a lifetime of voluntary work with several other organisations.

I have a policy of saying yes to opportunities that come my way, especially if they involve outdoor adventures. That led me to become a raft guide and a ski instructor, regularly taking school kids for raft trips or special Olympics athletes for weekend ski trips.

I was a volunteer water rescue swimmer with the Otago rescue helicopter for 20 years and I’ve been a first aider with the Otago Cavalcade week-long horse trek for the past 26 years. That’s six months of back country adventures that I would love to repeat again if I had the chance.

One of the other things I said yes to 30 years ago was helping with the Special Olympics.

Since then I’ve been Head of Delegation for Team New Zealand at the 2013 and 2017 World Winter Games. That’s a fancy title, but it still doesn’t come close to the buzz you get from helping someone progress from the learners' slope to the chair lift.

Through Police I’ve been Incident Controller in over 500 SAR operations. My guiding principle has been that “No one dies after I get started.”

That simple idea kept me focused when making the difficult decisions that SAR managers face regularly.

I did two tours to Thailand after the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami as part of the New Zealand Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team.

I oversaw repatriating victims across the world. That was tough work and we all came back with better knowledge and DVI skills. Skills that were put to the test in Christchurch after the earthquakes. I was involved in the central city body recovery phase there.

My 43 years with Police have given me some incredible opportunities. I even got the chance to study and get a Bachelor of Commerce and a Post Graduate Diploma. But it’s the people and the connection to the community I’ve got through SAR and volunteering that I’ve really treasured.

I’m also blessed to have had such a fantastically supportive family at work and at home.

I currently work in the Southern Police District Command Centre. It’s all about what’s happening right now in frontline policing, putting my accumulated years of Police and community service knowledge to good use to help make Southern the safest and best place to be.

A lifetime in Police can throw a lot of things at you. I’m glad I had that policy of saying yes to most of them.

NOTE: Senior Sergeant Brian Kingsley Benn received a Queen’s Service Medal for services to the New Zealand Police in SAR in 2010, which you can read about, here.


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