Phillip Pithyou swapped university textbooks for community policing

Acting Sergeant Phillip Pithyou at the Wellington Central Police Station.
Lucy Swinnen

Acting Sergeant Phillip Pithyou at the Wellington Central Police Station.

Former philosophy major Acting Sergeant Phillip Pithyou didn't dream of being a police officer when he grew up.

In fact, policing was the furthest thing from his mind, but an encounter with a community constable abruptly changed his career path.

"The question was raised, have you ever thought of being police?" Pithyou said. "Once I started reading on it, I thought, this is more for me." 

The Acting Sergeant was working with marginalised Wellington youth and studying psychology and philosophy at Victoria University when he met the community cop.

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"At the time it [policing] appeared different, but looking back it is quite similar," Pithyou said.

Joining the police was a chance to make effective change in the community.

"I thought, in essence, it is an extension of what I am doing, in a position I can make more of a difference."

He still uses the fundamentals of philosophy and psychology he learned at university in his police work today.

"People often ask what is your weapon of choice?" Pithyou said. "Communication is my number one tool." 

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His philosophy background helped him explain the "why" of the law to people.

It comes in handy when meeting refugees as part of his duties as Wellington District Ethnic Liaison Coordinator and helping them understand New Zealand law enforcement.

In August, Pithyou will reach his eight year mark in the police force.

Unlike the theory focus at university, Pithyou gets to engage directly with the community.

"In New Zealand, we police by consent. Gaining the trust and confidence of the public is a priority for the us," Pithyou said.

The New Zealand Police are looking to recruit at least 400 police officers across the country this year.

They are holding career days across the country to let people know about what it is really like to be in the police force.

In particular they are looking for 18-to-29 year old women and people from Maori, Pacific and multicultural backgrounds to sign-up.

"We talked to a lot of police officers to understand why they want to be a cop," New Zealand Police recruitment marketing manager Chandrika Kumaran said.

"People are quite driven by the idea that they want to be part of the community."

  • Wellington Police Career Event - Wellington Police College, 24 Papakowhai Rd, July 30, 1pm till 3pm. Visit to find out more.

 - The Wellingtonian


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