I spent considerable time with him in his final months discussing his police career, which spanned from 1949 until 1985, and, most importantly, the changes that happened in Police over that time.
That was the period when promotion to the higher ranks was by the “dead man’s shoes” seniority method; from there, it helped to be in the right camp if you wanted to advance. Much strategy was determined around the bowling green and through cosy chats.
It was an extremely formative period for Police and included the Thomas case and the Springbok tour, two events that have ramifications even today.
Most interesting was the way commissioners were selected, something of a dynasty having been preplanned by Commissioner Spencer.
I contrast that with the selection of our next commissioner, outlined in this month’s Police News.
I have detected more interest among the troops in the outcome this time than for the past four appointments. It may have a lot to do with the fact Commissioner Peter Marshall has raised the profile of the position with his upfront style, and the fact the three main contenders are relatively well known.
One thing is for sure, being election year, the political implications either way will not be the lowest rating criteria on the matrix.
And, in contrast to the bygone era where the pathway to the top job was reasonably well defined, today’s requirements cover a far broader range of factors.
Which brings us to election year. The parties will have done their strategising and worked out where law and order fits. The risk is that Police becomes a victim of its own success at reducing crime and the fear of crime. Usually there is a bit of
cash, or the promise of it, tossed around in the election year Budget, but only to areas of potential political pain. As law and order is seen as a relatively benign area, Police can’t expect fiscal reward for the efforts to get crime under control. Only when the effects of a frozen budget start to really bite will that happen.
Whatever happens politically, it is shaping up as an interesting year as the real impact of the new policing strategies implemented over the past few years will become obvious.
Here’s hoping the new commissioner’s prize doesn’t prove to be a poisoned chalice, or the successful candidate might become very nostalgic for the
era of dead man’s shoes.
Police News June 2023Police News MagazineNZPA