After learning all about wallpaper, and revived by a tasty lunch in one of the local cafes, our next visit was to the New Zealand Police Museum in Porirua. It has been quite some years since our last visit and the museum displays have been updated. A class of local schoolchildren were visiting and they sat enthralled as the officer showed how fingerprints were lifted for identification.
There was a whole wall of shifty looking characters and we wondered why most had their hands on display. The helpful officer in charge told us why. These were people arrested in the early days of colonisation, well before fingerprinting had made an appearance. The size and shape of a person’s hands remain constant, unlike hair and beards which can be easily changed to alter one’s appearance. Luckily none of our group recognised a long lost great-great grandfather amongst these photos from the police files of long ago.
The Serious Crash Unit investigates and determines the cause of serious road crashes, and the car on display is a reminder of just how badly a trip can end up, especially when speed and alcohol is involved. Crash investigators have a balancing act to work quickly to gather the evidence they need, and ensure that any road closures are kept as brief as possible. The SCU investigators are highly trained, and are constantly evaluating new technology to ensure the most efficient tools and methods for gathering and recording evidence are used at crash scenes. There has been a very interesting series about the SCU shown on TV recently, which showed the steps the officers take to gather evidence and reach their conclusions.
Serious Crash Unit investigation scene
The Dog Handlers are an important part of policing. The use of police dogs in New Zealand has grown from a single fully-trained dog and some puppies brought over from England in 1956. It now has over 100 teams of patrol and detector dog teams. Many of the police dogs on duty have been born and bred at the Trentham Dog Training Centre, some have been gifted by the public and some purchased from breeders. The dogs go through a strict assessment process before being accepted for training. They must have a good temperament, be in excellent physical condition and show a strong retrieval instinct. Police dogs respond to more than 30,000 incidents each year.
All police dog handlers are officers with about five years policing experience behind them before they join the Dog Unit. All patrol dogs are German Shepherds and are mainly used to track and search for people. Many of them are also trained for search and rescue work, victim recovery, and deployment with the Armed Offenders Squad. Detector dogs include a variety of breeds including German Shepherds, Labradors, Springer Spaniels and cross breeds. Detector dog teams are trained to detect narcotics, firearms, currency and explosives. Sadly, many of these brave dogs have been killed in the line of duty.
Wonder if I have what it takes to make a good policewomen? I donned a hat and a jacket, and clambered up onto a police motor bike to try it out. Luckily the bike was firmly bolted onto a stand so I didn’t fall over. The school kids were still in the museum and word soon got around – they rushed around the corner to see “Granny on the Bike”. Oh dear, I think they found it funny. Just as well they didn't see me trying get off again or they really would be laughing!
The Policeman’s Prayer reads: “Give me the unfailing courage at all times and under all conditions. Let me look into the face of death with unblinking eyes and no sense of fear”. The Memorial Wall at The Royal New Zealand Police College lists the names of fallen officers, commemorated annually on Police Remembrance Day. There is no doubt that this is a dangerous, challenging vocation, and all law abiding citizens thank them for their dedication.