Bros fight crime and fires

16:00, Jan 17 2013
Searle Bros
LONG TIME: From left: Jim, Anthony, Bill and John Searle say it’s the satisfaction they get from their jobs that has seen them stay in their careers for a collective 125 years.

Reporter Jay Boreham meets a family of brothers who've dedicated their working lives to keeping New Zealanders safe from harm.

It's been more than a life sentence but you won't hear the Searle boys complaining.

Between them the four brothers have racked up 125 years spent protecting New Zealand.

They've risen through the ranks of the Fire Service and the New Zealand police and they're now responsible for the safety of large chunks of Auckland.

Eldest brother Jim, 55, is the police area commander for Counties Manukau East, overseeing the eastern suburbs.

Anthony, 51, is senior station officer for the Fire Service in Papatoetoe and the youngest brother John, 47, is station officer at the Howick fire station. Their roles see them fighting fires across the super-city.


Bill, 50, is the highest ranking brother.

As district commander of Waitemata he's responsible for one of the country's largest policing districts - from north of the harbour bridge, across the North Shore, up to Mangawhai, across to Helensville and Waitakere and back through to New Lynn. It also encompasses the 106km of motorway from the Bombay Hills north to Orewa.

But no-one pulls rank when the family gets together and only if one of them steps out of line do the others join forces, Anthony says.

"It depends who's being picked on at the time and everyone gets their fair share," he says.

The brothers have witnessed first-hand the darker side of humanity throughout their careers.

And while each has had moments of glory they are reserved when it comes to talking about their careers.

They're also careful when asked if there are any work stories relating to each other that they think an individual should get some credit for.

"You have got to be a bit careful bringing up stories about each other because then it will be all on for young and old," John warns.

But Jim lets slip that John once took to him with a fire hose at a job in Otara - much to the disapproval of senior station officer Anthony.

But it's not all fun and games on the job. In his first year on the job in 1982 Bill found himself diverting people away from the Karangahape Rd cemetery where an offender was taking potshots with a rifle at passers-by.

"I was just by a police car and he took a shot at me, just missed my head and blew a hole in the siren."

Four years later Jim had a similar experience while he was serving on the armed offenders squad in Whanganui.

"We had surrounded a house and there was a guy blazing away and he blazed a hole in the fence just above my head."

December 1984 is also a month that stands out for the brothers. On December 7 the Queen St riots erupted out of Aotea square.

Jim and Bill were constables among the ranks of police trying to quell the violence as the angry mob turned its attention to looting Queen St shops.

Both describe the experience as frightening.

"But after a while when things got under control it was quite exciting," Bill says.

Anthony was in the Otara Fire Station at the time, keeping a watchful eye on his brothers. He'd spotted both of them on television coverage of the riots.

Two weeks later, on December 21, he was one of 340 firefighters fighting the huge ICI fire in Mt Wellington. The distribution warehouse contained substantial amounts of pool and agricultural chemicals. After finally getting the toxic blaze under control, firefighters spent a week dampening down hotspots.

Despite the variety of their roles Jim and Bill both find their current jobs the most enjoyable. But both are open to promotion if the right job comes along, they say.

Anthony and John, however, avoid moving up the Fire Service ladder because the only thing waiting there is a desk.

"It's a personal choice to stay on the trucks," John says.

Eastern Courier