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Constabulary Recruitment wants you – if you’re not already “in blue”.

It’s no secret that Police is struggling to get people to sign the dotted blue line to join the frontline.

In September, Newshub revealed that the number of Kiwis applying to become police officers plummeted by almost 50% in four years. New applications fell from 7973 in 2019 to only 4108 in 2022.

It’s a worldwide trend. But, in New Zealand’s case, it was compounded by intense pressure to recruit 1800 extra officers by 2023, leaving the well nearly dry. And it didn’t help that the Police College closed its intake for several months during the Covid pandemic. The virus also slowed down attrition in Police.

One strategy to ease Police’s pain is a concerted effort to recruit from within the organisation. Constabulary Recruitment is keen to talk to Police employees who might not have thought that becoming a sworn officer was an option for them or their whānau.

In the past two years, 95 Police employees and 40 Authorised Officers (AOs) have been recruited – about 10% of the hires in that period.

“Police employees are a brilliant source of talent,” Constabulary Recruitment team leader Lydia D’Arcy says. “They are already ‘Primed’ (understand Police’s core values are professional, respect, integrity, commitment to Māori and the Treaty, empathy, and valuing diversity), they know the core competencies of ‘Our Business’, the systems and the challenges and rewards of being in Police.

“Also, they have often already built the relationships and knowledge to transition to the frontline with far more ease than those newly coming into Police.”

Recruit instructor Sergeant Andrew Heffey agrees. “Those that come into college from policing have a better understanding of how the pieces fit together.”

Andrew says they understand things such as rank structure, how the organisation works, the shift work and what the dress standards are. “We've got civilians who come to the course saying, ‘What do you mean, I have to shave’… We've had someone resign because, ‘I didn't realise I had to work night shift’.”

He says each Police employee brings different strengths “depending on where they’ve come from”.

But they don’t get any preferential treatment: “From a pass-fail point of view, there would be no advantage... it doesn't make you a guaranteed pass.”

Two former employees who took up the challenge and made it through Police College are constables Gary Mitchell and Ariana Lander, who say they have no regrets and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.



Constable Gary Mitchell, JP


“I took a big pay cut to become a police officer. I was top of band E, step 20 as an Authorised Officer, and I went right back to step zero, band G when I graduated from Police College. But it was nothing to do with the money for me. It wasn't even a factor. I made that decision to get a career.”

Gary served in the Royal Navy before moving to New Zealand in 2010 with his Kiwi wife. The 40-year-old Scotsman worked as a loss prevention manager and for Corrections before joining Police in December 2013 as a custody officer at the Wellington District Custody Unit.

“I was one of the first Authorised Officers (AOs) when they came in. Further down the line, I became one of the national trainers of custody officers and contributed to the curriculum for that,” Gary says. He has been commended many times for his work and in 2020 was named a Sir Woolf Fisher Trust Police Fellow.

But, after 8½ years, Gary realised he had hit the ceiling as an AO. “There was no opportunity to be a supervisor or any development possibilities… it was like Groundhog Day every day.

“I’m a bit older and was wanting to settle down on a career that has future prospects such as rank, promotions and development opportunities.”

A timely encounter with a member of the Constabulary Recruitment team sealed the deal and in April last year he was off to Police College.

Gary says there were definitely no special favours for Police employees.

“I guess it just makes it easier when you come to the interview part of it. You are more likely to give relevant answers for the questions.”

He admits the physical side of being a recruit had some challenges. “I’m not as young as I used to be and when I started training, I was a bit out of shape. But I had lots of support from one of the PTIs and also from my sergeants and senior sergeant in custody.”

Once he was on the frontline, Gary says his previous Police experience came in handy. “Custody has a lot of transferable skills and they have been invaluable. You learn how to talk to people, how to recognise people in mental distress… to talk down aggressive people because you're in such close confines with them. It was definitely beneficial spending that time there before going sworn.”

Now, Gary couldn’t imagine doing anything else. “I have no regrets. I absolutely love my job. Even from the money aspect, it was worth every penny becoming a police officer… it’s the best decision I ever made.”



Constable Ariana Lander


Ariana Lander always intended to be a police officer. “I grew up with my dad being an officer... him being in Police was one of my main motivators to join. My younger sister is a call taker in Wellington who plans on joining one day too.”

Ariana, or Ari, began working for Police in early 2019 in a file management role that was later merged with station support.

“I decided to join up with file management to get more exposure to the job and insight into what policing involves. I got to see what a police officer’s day consisted of and what to expect. It also meant I was able to ask local officers about the joining process.”

Ari was one of the constabulary applicants caught up in Covid delays, and spots in Hawke’s Bay were hard to come by. “The recruitment process dragged out for some time.”

Meanwhile, she had to maintain her fitness and keep up some study so she was prepared for the call to make her way to Porirua to start her recruit course.

“The file management team and local police staff [in Hastings] were extremely supportive [during this period]. They did things like timing my laps at the track after shifts to keep me accountable. I also met some amazing officers who were constantly keeping me motivated and helping me with tricks and tips.”

The 24-year-old says being a Police employee was a major advantage when she finally made it to Police College.

“It helped a lot. Having worked in the policing environment for two years meant exams and the study were less mindboggling. I already knew about things such as NIA and OnDuty.”

Ari says while the recruit course was tough at times, “the friendships and culture you build at college is one of the best parts”.

“Everyone is going through it together and having people around who support you and help you is what makes it better.”

Now, two years after graduating she also says she has no misgivings about the path she took to become a police officer.

“I love policing. I look forward to coming to work every day. And, while there are days that are harder than others, I have no regrets about becoming sworn. But the best decision I made was to join with file management first. It has helped me so much.”

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