The Blue Line

20:32, Apr 24 2014
Dave McKenzie
Invercargill Sergeant Dave McKenzie and a fellow officer deployed with the UN in East Timor take a break with Timorese youngsters.

New Zealand's changing involvement in world conflict is forging a new Anzac tradition where khaki is joined by a blue uniform. In this and related stories, JARED MORGAN looks at expeditionary police and why they too can claim their place on Anzac Day.

The tradition extends back almost 50 years but is largely unknown: where New Zealand troops have been deployed overseas, police – including southern officers and civilian staff – have often followed.

Sending police officers to world trouble spots flows naturally from the aims of most post-World War II deployments of New Zealand Defence Force personnel, which have focused on increasing stability, security and policing capability to support an often fragile peace. The commitment means police dress uniforms are joining the ranks at Anzac services at the same time as the numbers of traditional veterans thin.

For the policemen and women involved, recognition in the form of medals and a welcome to the RSA fold has been automatic; it is public understanding that has lagged.

The first overseas role for Kiwi police came in 1964, as a contribution to the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus. New Zealand's commitment was a volunteer unit of 20 officers on six-month postings. The officers were stationed in Limassol, where they liaised between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot police and helped with investigations. In total, 79 officers were sent to Cyprus under the auspices of the UN.

Don Wisely, who as a constable in 1964 was part of the second New Zealand deployment to the island, says the experience was unlike anything he could have encountered in provincial New Zealand.


Recognition from the UN and an invitation to join the RSA came immediately after the deployment, although it took about 20 years before he was awarded a New Zealand General Service Medal.

Twenty-five years later, in 1989, Kiwi police were deployed to Namibia as part of the UN Transition Assistance Group.

A 32-strong contingent of officers joined 980 police monitors from 23 countries on a 12-month tour of duty. They were charged with overseeing the Southwest African Police, and maintaining law and order in the territory during the transition from South African control to independence.

Detective Sergeant Mike Bowman was four years into his police career when he applied and was selected for the deployment. It was not without the counsel of Wisely, who reassured his junior colleague that the deployment, the first contribution of Kiwi police to a UN mission since his own, would not only open doors for the then-constable, but also open his eyes.

Bowman says his year-long stint, which straddled Christmas, came with the full backing of institutions previously the domain of the army, navy and air force. "The RSA at Christmas sent us packages; we were acknowledged as returned servicemen when we got back."

That deployment came as the world experienced a shift in the global power base as the regimes of the Eastern Bloc toppled, the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended. The redrafting of the map of Europe was not without problems, and the breakdown of state control in former communist countries produced jostling for power and new civil and ethnic conflicts, particularly in the former Yugoslavia.

Constable Malcolm Darlison, at the time a career soldier who would later join the police, experienced that tension first-hand on a UN mission to Bosnia, but New Zealand police stayed out of the transition from communism in Europe. Instead, police made a small contribution in 1993 in Cambodia, the world's only post-communist country to restore monarchy as the system of government. Five Kiwi fingerprint experts helped determine voting authenticity under the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia.

The last deployment of the 20th century came in 1999, with New Zealand's first contribution to the fledgling nation of Timor-Leste. Police sent personnel for three rotations of six months to the then-East Timor. For Invercargill Sergeant Rob Mills it was his first of three overseas deployments – to East Timor, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste.

In the new millennium, New Zealand's contribution has increased significantly. Since 1999, police have been deployed to Bougainville, Solomon Islands, Afghanistan, Tonga, Thailand and Indonesia, both with UN backing and without.

For Sergeant Dave McKenzie, deployed to East Timor in 2001, his UN-sponsored mission straddled the greatest challenge to the world's sense of security since the height of the Cold War – September 11.

That event would lead to the War on Terror and more police missions to that war's frontline, Afghanistan.

Flaws in UN peace missions in the 1990s encouraged debate on new ways to rebuild after conflict. Human security and a responsibility to protect placed a focus on civilians rather than states. On the heels of this came the Report of the Panel on United Nations Peacekeeping Operations in 2000. Commonly called the Brahimi Report, after the chairman of the committee which produced it, Lakhdar Brahimi, it paved the way for a rapid increase in the numbers, duties and authority granted to civilian police in international missions.

The report called for "a doctrinal shift in the use of civilian police in United Nations peace operations" and for "member states to establish national pools of serving police officers who are administratively and medically ready for deployment to United Nations peace operations".

In New Zealand the report led to the creation within the police of the International Service Group.


The concept of international policing took shape as part of the UN's peacekeeping roles in newly emerging independent states during the second half of the 20th century.

Beginning with the Cyprus deployment in 1964, the UN called on professional police from member nations to help with peacekeeping operations. This limited role took a leap forward in the 1990s. Before then, the focus of UN peacekeeping had been on inter-state conflicts, such as those between Greece and Turkey or Israel and Egypt. Between 1992 and 2001, nine of the UN's 11 peacekeeping operations were intra-state "complex humanitarian emergencies", such as in Angola, Bosnia, Cambodia and Somalia. These humanitarian emergencies created a new model for peacekeeping, which increasingly called on the assistance of international police deployments.

The numbers involved in international operations point to the growth – from 35 officers in 1988 to more than 9000 around the world in 2000.

The New Zealand Police International Service Group was established on December1, 2005. Its job is to manage international deployments and to provide other governmental agencies with a single point of contact, liaising between those agencies and responding to international requests more efficiently. The roles range from post-conflict support to natural disaster relief, mentoring and investigative support.

The Southland Times