Top officer's lifetime of service

RHIANNON HORRELL
Last updated 05:00 03/10/2012
John Palmer
Rhiannon Horrell / Fairfax NZ
LIFETIME OF SERVICE: John Palmer.

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He is not only New Zealand's last chief inspector - he is the longest serving officer in the force.

And John Palmer, the man in charge of Auckland's eastern police area, still has a twinkle in his eye.

He has completed an impressive 46 years and eight months of service and has risen up the ranks from a young constable to an experienced boss with about 200 staff.

''This is a wonderful career,'' Palmer said. ''It's difficult, challenging, dangerous, interesting and you're never bored.''

He has held a swag of positions over the years and is on the move again.

On October 15, Palmer will take up a new role based in the city as chief inspector of operations. The job includes operations planning, metro support and involvement with the custody unit, the Eagle helicopter and the marine police among other things.

He is also reflecting on his career to date.

Palmer joined the force as a cadet in 1966 and attended police training school in Trentham, when police trainees stayed in World War II era army barracks.

''It's a far cry from the Royal New Zealand Police College in Porirua.''

In 1967 Palmer was posted to his home town of Christchurch.

''In those days we had black police cars and a black uniform with helmets.''

He said officers would carry a wooden baton, handcuffs and a whistle.

The whistle was used to call for backup.

''I only blew the whistle once,'' Palmer said, when he witnessed a shop break-in.

''My colleague didn't come. There were no portable radios at that stage.''

He was eventually promoted to sergeant in Christchurch and then to senior sergeant.

''I worked in a variety of roles. I was a police prosecutor for a period, I was in charge of the crime control unit, I moved to the inquiry office, the communication centre and I was a watchhouse custody senior and staff senior sergeant.''

In 1980 he was promoted again to the role of inspector in Auckland.

He recalls the heartbreaking Money homicide case of the early 1980s.

A father was reported to have thrown his two young children off the top of the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

The children did not survive.

''He jumped in after them,'' Palmer said of the man. ''He faced court. We located the boy but never found the girl. It was very tragic indeed.''

In 1986 Palmer was promoted to chief inspector and by 1991 he was based at the Newmarket station.

''Then on July 1, 1992 our whole world changed. We merged with the Transport Ministry.''

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More recently Palmer has been calling the Mt Wellington station home.

The experienced chief inspector received the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday Honours in 2003.

''I really should have written a book about everything,'' he said. ''I'm no different to any other long serving officer. I'm not special - I've just done my bit.''

''I can knock off at the end of the week and say, 'I've contributed to making society safer'. How could you get a job more satisfying than that?''

He said he would miss his hard-working colleagues at Mt Wellington.

Senior Sergeant Brett Hjorth said Palmer's achievements in the police spoke for themselves.

''He's a genuine leader who is full of integrity and humility. He is [the most] honest and trustworthy person you will ever be lucky enough to meet - a true gentleman with a great sense of humour.''

Hjorth said Palmer's longevity was testament to his loyalty and commitment to police.

''His passion for what he does is evident to all those that have and continue to work with him. You can rely on Chief Inspector Palmer to be there to help and nothing is ever too much trouble.''

- Auckland Now

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