Ten Questions with Grant Gerken
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Q. Congratulations on becoming vice-president. You’ve previously held several other positions within the association, so what do you hope to achieve in this new role?
A. I’m humbled and proud to be in this position and acknowledge the support and encouragement I’ve received, particularly from outgoing VP Marcia Murray. She leaves a legacy of strong advocacy in the diversity space, and I share her passion for that. I also want to encourage more participation and representation from our junior members and from Police employees.
Q. Tell us why you joined the Police?
A. When I was a lad, our family had a close friend who was a police officer. He was built like a budgie on steroids. Despite “leg day” not featuring prominently in his gym routine, I so wanted to be that guy. My other dream was to be an astronaut. Not surprisingly, the opportunity to join Police eventuated before any offer of space travel.
Q. You have an identical twin brother, Dean, who is also a police officer in Invercargill. Have the two of you ever used your likeness to prank anyone?
A. We have been engaged in “prank wars” for some years and, frustratingly, I have often been on the receiving end, but six years ago Dean donated some bone marrow to me for a life-extending transplant. So, you might say that evened the score.
Q. Policing worldwide is under pressure. What do see as the biggest issues that need to be addressed at home and abroad?
A. It’s impossible to ignore the global pandemic and the resulting pressures on policing, with some countries experiencing mounting anarchy as lockdowns prevail, but, undoubtedly, the proliferation of illegal firearms in the hands of criminals, and the associated gun violence, remains one of our biggest challenges.
Q. You’re known for your sharp clothes and flamboyant footwear. What led you down that sartorial path?
A. I suspect that growing up as an identical twin played its part. As kids, Dean and I were so alike even our extended family couldn’t tell us apart. So, it was probably a search for individuality that made me to stray from the conventional fashion path.
Q. You’re a cancer survivor and have helped others in similar situations. What do those experiences bring to your work?
A. My first brush with cancer was in 1993. I was a young, seemingly fit and healthy constable stationed in Porirua. When I found out I had stage 4 cancer and was expected to live for only three months, it was devastating. It was at that time I realised how fortunate I was to be part of both the Police and the Police Association families. The empathy, support and compassion my family and I received was something I’ll never forget. It was a catalyst for my involvement in the association and for my welfare-based approach to both organisations. In conjunction with the Police Association Welfare team, I am now working on a support network for all members affected by cancer, including a supply of resource books available to help members navigate the challenges and uncertainty that cancer presents.
Q. What do you do to unwind?
A. I am a passionate fisherman, dedicated to the pursuit of monster trout in the Mackenzie Country canal system. Anyone naive enough to mention “fishing” within a kilometre radius of me is likely to be subjected to a personal viewing of my extensive “monster fish” photo gallery. The words “humble” and “fisherman” don’t generally apply to me, but I do love helping others achieve similar success if you ever intend fishing in the world-class fishery that Tekapo and Twizel provides?
Q. Tell us about the rest of your family?
A. My partner, Sonya, is an office manager at a local ultrasound practice. I have two children – Jake, 22, is a youth worker studying for a social work degree, and Alisha, 20, is in her final year at teachers’ college studying the Te Pōkai Mātauranga o te Ao Rua (Primary Bicultural Education) programme. I am immensely proud of my whānau, which includes our two pugs, Yogi and Lollie.
Q. What is the best thing about Invercargill and the deep south?
A. Torrential rain pounding on my tin roof, sub-zero frosts in the autumn and spring, and highs of 12 degrees Celsius in the summer delivering a five-minute burn time to anyone in their speedos! But seriously, Invercargill is the friendly capital of NZ. I suspect there are very few cities in this world where previously unacquainted people pass each other on the street and warmly say “Hi”.
Q. Once the borders open again, where in the world would you like to go?
A. Prior to Covid-19, I had three overseas trips booked. The most important was to Portland, Oregon, in the States. That’s where my best mate lives, and I was to attend his daughter’s wedding. It’s been postponed twice now, but I’m hoping for third time lucky in August 2022. Oh, and I’ll probably divert to Bali for poolside beers, tanned speedo lines and some long overdue tattooing. So, toes and fingers crossed.