Compassion drove cop’s search for bodies
When parts of Australia were ravaged by bushfires earlier this year Mt Albert community constable Darren Calkin answered the call for help.
Mr Calkin went to Australia twice in February and March as part of the national police disaster victim identification team, which he joined in 2007.
On the first trip he helped with scene work at Kinglake and Marysville, two of the towns worst hit by the disaster.
He also helped set up the reconciliation centre for the disaster, where missing person files were matched with files of the remains found after the fires.
After leaving Australia Mr Calkin was called back to work at the centre.
“I was a team leader so it was the paperwork side of it,” he says.
Although dealing with files sounds easier than searching scenes for bodies, he says it can be worse.
“You’re dealing with the other side, seeing the photographs before and after and reading all the statements. Sometimes it’s a lot worse.
“I’ve worked on both sides and quite often this is the hardest.”
He says getting the job done well and quickly so families can get the bodies of their loved ones back faster and get some closure makes the role easier for him.
“It’s all about how you look at it. If you’re doing it to help other people it’s a lot easier to deal with.”
Although Mr Calkin has done a lot of victim identification in New Zealand, Australia was his first overseas deployment and he is keen to be part of future deployments.
Team members use fingerprints, dental and medical records, DNA and circumstantial evidence to identify people.
Working overseas: Mt Albert community constable Darren Calkin identified Australian bushfire victims.