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The big question in policing circles right now is who will be the next Commissioner?

Current Commissioner Peter Marshall inherited a Police that was better staffed and resourced than ever before following the big budget and headcount increases of the mid- to late-2000s. Since then, however, the Police budget has been frozen across the board and cost increases have eaten away at available funds. There has been widespread restructuring to “work smarter” and non-constabulary support staff have been cut to make ends meet.

Despite the tough times, Mr Marshall has remained wildly popular with the troops. He has tended to lead from the front, being willing to answer media criticisms head-on and keeping high visibility in the districts. Both crime and the road toll have dropped steadily, public satisfaction has risen and fear of crime is low.

On his appointment in 2011, Mr Marshall requested a shorter, three-year term, rather than the traditional five. And so, from April 1 this year, New Zealand Police will have a new Commissioner for, we presume, the next five years.

The new Commissioner will face considerable challenges. He or she will inherit a role with a far higher profile than the job has had in the past. An assured public presence will be necessary to avoid the PR disasters that lurk below the surface of even seemingly minor operational mistakes.

A bold, energetic and open leadership style will be needed to avoid the reappearance of a gulf between senior management and frontline police.

And, perhaps most crucially, the new Commissioner will need nerves of steel to confront the continuing financial squeeze that threatens to reveal itself in the slow-brewing failures and scandals that have been a feature when budget pressures have built in the past.

The process for appointing a new Commissioner is run by the State Services Commission.

While we can never rule out a left-field appointment, Police News understands there are three prime candidates for the job. Two of them, Mike Bush and Viv Rickard, are the current Deputy Commissioners. The third is Dave Cliff, currently Assistant Commissioner: Road Policing. Each has considerable strengths, and their CVs will no doubt be highlighting recent successes in their patches: record low crime; management of unprecedented organisational change; and a record low road toll, respectively.

Without access either to a crystal ball, or Paul the psychic octopus from the last FIFA World Cup, Police News can’t predict who will be the next king of the Castle. However, here are profiles of the three contenders, from which you can draw your own conclusions.



Mike Bush was appointed Deputy Commissioner Operations in April 2011. He has responsibility for: national operational, road policing, investigative and intelligence functions; overseas deployments; the Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police Secretariat; national security and counter-terrorism. Five assistant commissioners and the Director of Intelligence report to him. In his former role as Counties Manukau District Commander he oversaw deployment of an additional 300 officers into New Zealand’s busiest Police district in the mid-2000s and pioneered neighbourhood policing under the Policing Excellence change programme. He retains the Policing Excellence portfolio. Mr Bush joined Police in 1978. His operational and administrative positions included Southeast Asia liaison officer, based in Bangkok, during which time he was the first New Zealand official to reach devastated Phuket after the 2004 Asian tsunami. He was awarded the MNZM (Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit) for his achievements in this operation. He also oversees the Prevention First programme.



The position of Assistant Commissioner Road Policing was created to reinforce the significance of road safety to Police and promote relationships in the transport and road safety sectors. The role has additional responsibility for major operational change implementation and delivery of better public services across Government. A key area has been the phased roll-out of the Mobility project. Dave Cliff joined Police in 1983 and has held several positions, including that of National Road Policing Manager. He worked in Vietnam, under a New Zealand Aid project, and in Buenos Aires, Argentina, advising on road safety issues. He was appointed Canterbury District Commander in 2007 and became familiar as the face of policing after the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. He was appointed Assistant Commissioner South in May 2011 and to his current position when the Assistant Commissioner roles were realigned in November 2012. He was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) in 2012.



As Deputy Commissioner Resource Management, Viv Rickard manages all Police's big resource issues, acting as the bridge between frontline officers and the assets that enable them to do their jobs, from equipment to employment contracts. Reporting to this position are: the National Manager Training Service Centre; Chief Information Officer; and General Managers of Human Resources, Finance, and Strategy, Policy and Performance. Mr Rickard was appointed Deputy Commissioner in 2010 after more than 26 years in Police. Previously, he was Assistant Commissioner Operations and Assistant Commissioner Crime and Investigations. Other roles have included five years as District Commander in Northland and two years as District Commander in Waitemata. He is of Te Arawa, Ngati Whare and Ngati Porou descent and is the first Maori to reach the rank of Deputy Commissioner in the Police.


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