Dusty bonds to break barriers

PETRA FINER- SOUTH TARANAKI STAR
Last updated 09:37 29/11/2012
Justin Clegg
PETRA FINER
Hawera constable Justin Clegg and his leonberger Fezzic hang out with Tawhiti School students at their recent pet day.

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South Taranaki Star

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When Justin Clegg realised he was cancer-free, he had an epiphany - he needed to make a difference for his community.

That very afternoon he connected to the internet and signed up to become a police officer. Five years later he believes it is one of the best decisions he ever made.

A front-line police officer, the Hawera constable spends most of his working time responding to calls.

When he is not working, Mr Clegg can often be found in a school classroom educating students and showing the friendly side of the police.

"I think kids are where you can make a big difference," he said.

"Police are putting forward a new strategy of prevention first. Working with kids is quintessentially prevention first - showing them that we all make mistakes and there's a different path you can take."

A lot of the children he works with have not had good experiences with the police, so he works on a friendly basis trying to break down barriers.

"Having a chat to them about how their day's going, sitting with them in class, it might change their perception of who we are."

Though he often attends domestic incidents and deals with upset parents and distressed children, Mr Clegg believes that if policing is done properly, it should strengthen a family.

"A lot of that starts with the kids. No matter what's going on in the parents' lives, they love their kids and want to do the best for their kids and sometimes they just don't know how."

One thing he values most is respect.

"I always try and police with respect, you're there to do a job and the end result of that job is not going to change when somebody needs to be arrested," he said.

"The way we do that has a huge impact on the family and their perception of the police."

Part of that comes from the knowledge that he lives in a small town and the people he arrests today may serve him or queue with him at the supermarket tomorrow.

When he is not working, Mr Clegg, mostly known as Dusty (or Constable Dusty to the students), is often found playing football with the Kaponga Demons or hanging out with his wife, Suze, and his dog, a leonberger named Fezzic.

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