Keen to keep saving lives

MARYKE PENMAN
Last updated 05:00 02/10/2012
john kelly
CLOCKING OFF: Waitemata district road policing manager Superintendent John Kelly is retiring after more then 35 years of service.

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He didn't join the police, the police joined him says Waitemata district road policing manager Superintendent John Kelly.

After 15 years as a traffic officer, Mr Kelly became a policeman when the Traffic Safety Service was merged with the police force in 1992.

He has now retired after clocking up more than 35 years of service.

With a grandfather, aunt, uncle and brother all in the police force, it would seem fitting for Mr Kelly to follow in their footsteps.

"I wanted to be in enforcement and I wanted to do a job with some public good attached to it," he says.

Back then the aim of the job was much the same, Mr Kelly says, "making the road safer for everyone".

But improvements in technology have since opened a lot of doors, he says.

"To catch offenders we would use these big square boxes perched precariously on the side of the road and watch a needle as it ran across the screen.

"Now it's just as easy to offend but it's much harder to get away with it."

Mr Kelly was central to the 1992 integration of the Traffic Safety Service and the police force and in 1999, as second in charge to the national road policing manager, he set up Highway Patrol, a national road policing strategy.

This he says was the highlight of his career and has brought the biggest reduction in road fatalities.

He says drivers' attitudes are changing and people are gaining a much better understanding of the risks.

"If someone got caught for drink driving in the 1970s it would be ‘poor old Bill', but now it's ‘you silly sod, you should've known better'."

Asked what he will miss about his day job, Mr Kelly says it is the quality of people he has worked with.

"They are a very passionate and dedicated bunch," he says.

"Often they go unrecognised beavering away in the background, but they save a lot of lives."

He says he would like to remain involved in the police in a consultancy role.

"I don't want to hang up my brain.

"I feel I can still contribute to saving some lives."

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