Fond farewell to po­lice chief

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By KARINA ABADIA

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.’’

Photos: PETER MEECHAM

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

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