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The business media these days is full of superlatives and confidence about what is being described internationally as New Zealand’s “rock star economy”.

Share prices, company profits and the dollar are up. Listening to ZB disc jockeys, you could be forgiven for thinking the streets of the country are flowing with milk and honey.

But it just doesn’t feel that way yet. The great trickledown doesn’t quite seem to have reached the average Kiwi, who can’t be blamed for feeling that much of the recovery has been paid for with reduced living standards for many and that the Amway rally is in the next door suburb or town, not the one I’m in.

I draw parallels with Police. All the indicators of reduced crime, reduced fear of crime, and various audit results, such as the recent Performance Improvement Framework, have the cheerleaders waving pompoms in everyone’s faces. And everyone is expected to don their hula skirts and jump on the end of the line.

No one wants to rain on the party or be the grumpy old uncle muttering in the corner, supping on his flagon, when everyone else is toasting with overflowing champagne glasses. However, when the bill arrives next morning demanding payment for the champagne consumed, not to mention breakages, grumpy old uncle’s scepticism might start to sound more pragmatic than negative.

Because, outside the party, away from the hype and high fives, I get the feeling that a disconnect is beginning to occur between the spinners and bear-huggers and those with their noses pressed up against the window.

As in the Policing 2000 and INCIS days of the 1990s, everyone wants to believe there is a better way and that we can police better. But in the 1990s, blind belief, hype and purgatory for anyone expressing a cautionary note or not tapping their feet to the chosen tune cost the organisation badly.

In the old Soviet Union, people used to clap after Joseph Stalin’s speeches for two hours because no one wanted to be the first to stop; to do so was to risk denunciation and punishment.

I hope the increasing numbers exiting the organisation are not the ones who stopped clapping too early. Some may simply have had the temerity to be older than 50, but I suspect those who saw what happened to Police when the critics were silenced in the 1990s might just want to get out before the champagne bottle empties. Blind obedience has never worked long term for any regime in history.

On a positive note, I went to Waitangi this year, and saw how Police, especially the iwi liaison officers, have become an integral part of the celebration of our national day.

The overhyped media around the behaviour of the few inevitable idiots clouds an experience where protocols take precedence over rules to enforce them.

It’s a uniquely Kiwi way to celebrate Waitangi Day and I encourage those who don’t get to go there professionally to make the pilgrimage one year and get an understanding of the significance of the event that is impossible to obtain through media representations.

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