Battered, bruised and knifed, but still fighting crime

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 05:00 30/12/2013
Dave Litton

HANDS ON: Senior sergeant Dave Litton divides his time between operating the Waikato Police District and saving lives at Waihi Beach. Inset, Constable Dave Litton recovering from surgery after being bashed in the face while on duty at Raglan in 2005.

Dave Litton
BASHED Then Constable Dave Litton recovering from surgery after being bashed in the face while on duty at Raglan in 2005.

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Dave Litton is not your typical police senior sergeant.

Every day he stretches out his muscles and tendons in yoga poses, preferably at sunrise, and it doubles as a kind of meditation.

Colleagues give him grief about it, but 14 years spent enforcing the law has taught Litton that he only has one body and the job will take its pound of flesh. His arm and wrist have been broken chasing criminals.

He's been battered, bruised and hit. He was knifed badly trying to stop a man committing suicide.

The yoga keeps his body in tune and his mind in balance. Both were damaged and pushed to the edge when Litton was viciously beaten while serving as community constable at Raglan.

Readers of the Waikato Times may have seen his swollen and bruised face when it was published in 2005.

It's a stark contrast to the healthy and fit 40-year-old who recalls that night from the comforts of Hamilton East cafe Mavis and Co.

Litton worked on his own out west and he was tackling an issue in town that a group of young guys, and one in particular, was causing.

It seemed every time he was on duty this man was breaking the law. So Litton kept a close eye on him.

That night the man had been drinking - which was forbidden under his bail conditions.

Litton says he walked up the driveway to find the man with his mates.

"I got him to blow in the bag suspecting he might fail and he did," Litton says.

"He got stroppy when I said he'd have to come back to Hamilton so I tried to get him by the roadside knowing someone would be driving past. We started walking down the drive and he king hit me as I was trying to put this blow-in-the-bag kit away."

The guy picked up Litton's torch and "went to town" on his face.

"A number of times I was on my hands and knees trying to get up and was just smashed. I lost three teeth and had my jaw broken in five places."

The beating continued until the man's brother intervened.

Litton finally got his attacker in handcuffs and off-duty officers were on scene to back him up in minutes.

The man was sentenced to 3 years in prison for assault with intent to injure and Litton struggled to work alone and at night afterwards.

He moved to Hamilton until his confidence returned.

It wasn't exactly what Litton had in mind when he decided he wanted join the police as a 16-year-old.

Kenyan-born Litton always had a desire to do something fun and exciting and it was a ride-along in "the South Auckland of Wellington" - Porirua - that did it.

"I remember going to a burglary," he says.

"I remember driving incredibly fast in an old Falcon getting thrown from one side of the car to the other. I remember the police station at Porirua and it hadn't changed in the 10 years since I did that ride along until I joined the police."

It was an "interesting" beat for the cadet to learn the ropes.

When he and his first wife decided to move north to Raglan there were 200 patched mobsters in town, the prospects, hangers on and wannabes.

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The general public don't know what goes on in those dark corners of society, Litton said, but it's the coal face that police chip into each day.

"I think a lot of police join and they have a short sharp shock and a rude awakening to the other side of life.

"We deal with the worst side of life. At times 90 per cent of our work is those people. And the things that keep you sane are the dealings you have with the general public who do care about where they live, what they have and other people."

The coast also keeps Litton on an even keel - surfing and surf lifesaving in particular.

He went from Raglan to Hamilton, and then to Waihi where he was the station officer for five years.

Now he's one of the Waikato police district's shift commanders.

It's a high stress job, Litton says.

He's on the beat, but he's also organising staff and dealing with any serious incidents such as homicides and fatal road smashes.

All of it has taught Litton a thing or two. One being that problems come from the home and how people are brought up.

"We see what goes on in those problem homes. One thing that could be done better is getting into those homes earlier. And to provide help to the parents and children, earlier, to put them on the right path with good role models around them so they get better values and make better choices.

"Because the impact that one person can have on so many other lives, we get to see."

Litton has other jobs too.

He's father to two boys, from a previous marriage, and a girl from his current one.

He's also operations manager at the Waihi Beach Lifeguard Service.

Those lessons Litton learnt on the job have crossed over into his personal life too.

He spends more time with his boys because he's seen how valuable it is to invest time in children, especially young men without a father figure around.

matt.bowen@waikatotimes.co.nz

- Waikato Times

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