Fond farewell to police chief
NEWLY retired policeman John Palmer is amazed at how much his old job and society have changed since he first started his long career fighting crime.
Police didn’t even have portable radios back in 1967 when he first walked the beat.
Each officer just carried a helmet, a wooden baton, handcuffs and a whistle.
Now every constable is issued with an iPad, an iPhone and the most advanced portable radio system available.
‘‘If you’d suggested to me or my colleagues back then that we would have all this stuff in 2013 we would have thought you were bonkers,’’ he says.
Mr Palmer rose through the ranks to become the country’s youngest chief inspector and its last after the position was discontinued.
He was New Zealand’s longest serving police officer before he retired on September 20.
The 65-year-old has a great affection for the eastern suburbs where he worked for 19 years, most recently at the Mt Wellington station.
‘‘You’ve got some of the most wealthy real estate in New Zealand and then you’ve got some of the lowest socio-economic areas. It was an interesting place to police.’’
Mr Palmer took up the role of chief inspector of operations in the city last October and was in charge of operations planning, metro support and involvement with the custody unit, Eagle helicopter and marine police ( Auckland City Harbour News, October 17, 2012).
He’s completed 47 years and 7 months of service but still vividly remembers his training in 1966.
It was a very disciplined and spartan environment, especially by today’s standards.
The instructors wore white gloves and they would run their fingers along the tops of the windows. If they found any dust your punishment was to run several kilometres up to the top of the water tower, he says.
Police enforcement was also very different.
Anyone who said the f-word to an officer could be sent to prison.
People could also be charged with ‘‘idle and disorderly’’.
‘‘If the policeman asked you what you did for a living and you said you were unemployed, they locked you up. It was considered disgraceful for you to be lounging around the streets making a nuisance of yourself.
‘‘If you could prove you were on social welfare they probably would’ve been let off but it wasn’t so easy to get back then.’’
Memorable career ments include the Springbok Tour.
‘‘It had a significant impact on police officers like me.
‘‘It was an unfortunate, difficult and dangerous time for the police,’’ he says.
The New Zealand Order of Merit recipient has loved his mo1981 job but says it’s time to move on. More than anything he will miss his colleagues.
‘‘I still say New Zealand police officers and the staff who work in the police are among the best people this country can produce.’’
The support his coworkers gave him after his wife Judith and best friend Bob Groves drowned during a family trip to Rarotonga last December was overwhelming.
‘‘The police family were so wonderful to me. They provided me with more love and support than I could have possibly asked for. Without their kindness, I would have struggled.’’
Challenging career: Former chief inspector John Palmer reckons he’s seen the best and worst aspects of humanity in his job. – Former chief inspector
John Palmer, 65