Thirty-five year veteran in top police job

ANDREA VANCE AND SIMON DAY
Last updated 05:00 26/02/2014
Mike Bush
JOHN SELKIRK
MIKE BUSH: 'I'm very results focused.'

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He has solved every murder he has investigated. Now deputy commissioner Mike Bush has "policed his way to the top".

His three-year appointment as police commissioner was announced by minister Anne Tolley yesterday. Bush, a 35-year-veteran, will take over from Peter Marshall in early April.

The former Counties Manukau commander was widely assumed to be the frontrunner. Deputy commissioner of operations since April 2011, he pioneered a crime prevention scheme that contributed to a 17 per cent drop in crime and he oversaw policing of the Rugby World Cup.

However, a cloud hung over his candidacy after he read a eulogy at the funeral of former detective inspector Bruce Hutton last year. He said Hutton, whom a royal commission of inquiry found had planted evidence that led to the wrongful murder conviction of Arthur Allan Thomas, had integrity beyond reproach.

"On reflection, I do regret giving that eulogy in my role as deputy commissioner," he said yesterday.

"The intention was good but I do understand if people were offended and I apologise to anyone who may have been offended."

However, he would not comment on who wrote the speech or whether he was originally meant to deliver it.

Arthur Thomas' brother, Des Thomas, said yesterday that the apology was a start but should have been personally addressed.

"We would like him to give Arthur a written apology. That would show his sincerity. That would go a long way to showing he has a sense of justice here," he said.

Arthur Thomas and his family would have preferred a written apology.

However, the apology was a step in the right direction for the commissioner and for police, Thomas said.

Bush is likely to escape any fallout from a report into the 1970 Crewe murders, which is due imminently. Instead,  Marshall will front the findings.

Police Association president Greg O'Connor welcomed Bush's appointment.

"This will be a popular appointment amongst police. Mike Bush has policed his way to the top."

However, he warned Bush would grapple with stretched resources, following a 2012 Budget freeze.

Bush responded: "The role is being a police commissioner and being a chief executive at the same time. One of my responsibilities is to ensure that we . . . reduce crime and keep people safe within the allocated budget."

The 53-year-old began his career in Kaitaia in 1978 and went on to take charge of Interpol in Wellington. He headed North Shore CIB and was later crime manager of the Bay of Plenty district.

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As police liaison officer for Southeast Asia, he was the first Kiwi officer to reach Phuket after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, and was later made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his work.

Before becoming district commander for Counties Manukau in 2008, he was crime services manager for Waitemata District. He led a $100 million methamphetamine drug bust and solved every murder case he was assigned.

However, the death of 49-year-old electrician Stavros Stavrianos haunted him because police never recovered a body. Detectives solved the mystery despite having only a tiny piece of his skull to go on.

Almost six years ago, he saw the safe return of kidnapped 5-year-old Xin Xin Ma to her relieved family. Bush was awarded a prestigious silver merit award for the rescue.

He wants to get his feet under the desk before he announces any major changes.

"I'm very results focused . . . I think we have got the right plan. I am just going to nail that home. It's about doing our utmost to make sure people aren't victims of crime or crash."

Tolley said Bush would be "an outstanding" commissioner.

- Fairfax Media

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