42 years a copper, but coming back as Santa
Phew – Kapi-Mana News hasn’t lost its Santa.
Paremata resident Bruce Hutton and wife Shona are soon moving to Woodville, where they will enjoy retirement on a lifestyle block.
However, Mr Hutton vows to keep close ties with Porirua, through his interests in a photography business, playing Santa for a community group in Tawa, and having family living in the city.
It’s a relief, because Mr Hutton has graced the front page of KapiMana News, in the last edition before Christmas, dressed in his pristine Santa outfit, for a number of years now.
He’s a heck of a sport, gladly fishing, playing beach cricket or being sent way up high, all for the sake of a festive photo.
The impetus for the move is Mr Hutton’s retirement from the police force after 42 years’ service – the last 20 spent in the forensic photography section. Before that, he was a beat cop in the city, held sole positions in Woodville and Waipukurau and was the first community policeman to watch over Porirua’s city centre.
His contribution was recognised at a farewell dinner at the police college on Saturday night.
Mr Hutton comes from a bygone era of policing. He was taken as a cadet in 1969, trained for 19 months at Trentham and initially based at the barracks in Mt Cook, Wellington.
‘‘I always wanted to be in the police, one of our neighbours growing up was a cop and I admired him a lot.’’
His first arrest is as clear as a bell in his mind. He had not long turned 18 and he arrested a man for fighting in Cuba St, Wellington. It turns out this chap regularly delivered the pies to the police station and the next day the tasty savouries didn’t turn up. Oops.
We might live in modern times, and there may be more pressure on police today, but some things never change for a rural policeman, he says – that of forging relationships and, being firm but fair. He loved his time in Wairarapa, and is deservedly immodest about his impact in some situations.
‘‘When I moved to Woodville as a young fella, there were a lot of burglaries. I went about things in my own way and in a week had 37 people prosecuted, cleared most of it up. It was a time when you would have a few beers at the local and find out what was going on.
‘‘I was also the bailiff there and helped clear a lot of debt to local businesses by making sure the wives received the pay packets instead of their husbands.’’
Mr Hutton ensured, where he could, that locals got the ‘‘ fair whack’’ of the jobs on offer, dealt with local criminals in an evenhanded way – including encouraging their kids to play club rugby.
His attitude towards policing changed in the mid-1980s, however, after a move to Otaki. At an out-ofcontrol party, while aiding another officer, he had his face crushed by a man wielding a concrete block. He was off work for a month.
‘‘I lost a lot of confidence to work on the street, it was a hard time for me.’’
The position of community cop in Porirua became available and he’s lived in the city since 1986. In 1992, a lifelong love of photography saw him jump at the chance to become a forensic photographer.
He says there is a ‘‘mystique’’ in what forensic photographers do, mainly due to television programmes like CSI, but it is not glamorous work, he insists.
‘‘It’s often about death and telling unchanged stories. We are preserving something that has happened and if you do it right, you can never attack the integrity of a photograph.’’
He has worked a number of high-profile cases, including the murder of Eugene and Gene Thomas. It took its toll, with the five-strong photography unit using counsellors regularly.
Last year he reached a point where he knew he had to get out, after too long being witness to the ‘‘horrific’’ things people do to each other.
‘‘I worked two baby deaths in a week and decided ‘enough is enough, if I haven’t lost my mind by now, I’m going to punch holes in a wall soon’.
‘‘You spend a lot of time with dead people and you have to have the ability to structure that in your brain without it affecting your outlook on life. It was getting to me and I thought it was better to leave a happy person.’’
Mr Hutton was the first police photographer to be made a fellow of the New Zealand Photographic Society and is a member of the Friends of the Police Museum and the International Police Association. He is proud to have stood alongside his fellow officers.
‘‘I’m coming away with no regrets after more than 40 years. There are great people in this job, doing things every day that you never see or read about in the papers.’’
Retirement means more time to spend on his other passion – vintage cars – and keeping his camera skills up to scratch, working part-time as a medical photographer for MidCentral Health.
Old school: Bruce Hutton with the helmets he used to wear as a beat policeman in Wellington after graduating as a cadet in 1970. The black helmet is for night-time and in winter, while the white is for the daylight hours and worn during summer.