New police boss calls on communities for support

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 13:32 14/07/2014
BRUCE BIRD
PETER DRURY/Fairfax NZ
STEPPING UP: Waikato Police district commander, Superintendent Bruce Bird, speaking in his office at the Hamilton Central Police Station.

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Police can't stamp out crime on their own and communities need to stand up and say ''we've had enough of that crap'', Waikato's new police commander, Superintendent Bruce Bird says.

The no-nonsense leader has a clear message for Waikato residents.

''If you are prepared to support your community, you will do some remarkable things and we will be there to help you make it happen,'' he said.

''In essence, we want the communities to start standing up for themselves, and saying we've had enough of that crap and these are the things that we can start doing to make this the community we want to live in, and we're not going to be held ransom by that criminal fraternity that sits in there and thinks they can - we need help to do it. We ain't going to do it on our own.''

The 55-year-old married father of two has been in the force's ranks since 1977. And that belief in the power to influence other people's lives in a positive way may trace back to his childhood.

He was born in Wairoa and as a young lad he'd travel to a place called Tuai, near Lake Waikaremoana in Te Urewera National Park, where his grandmother was a cook.

''The local policeman was a local hero by the name of Constable Lou Dolman,'' Bird said. ''Right from a young age I went , 'Wow', that's what I want to do. He was just such a, ya know, he was always out there wanting to help people ... He used to take us up around the lake, things like that, and I thought, cor, this guy just gives everything to that place. And I went, cripes, that's what I want to do.''

Bird's call for every day folk to take a stand against crime mirrors his thoughts about the force. Bird, who took on the role earlier this year, firmly believes in the knowledge gained through police officers' experience on the street.

''All the research is pretty unequivocal there - 80 per cent of good ideas come from the front line. The whole Prevention First police model is all driven from the front line. All of the ideas we could actually stretch back to someone on the front line.''

Bird is perhaps the most familiar with the department's new strategy. Not only did he lead its development but he was in charge of implementing it from 2011.

As such, he spent the past three years as the national prevention manager in Wellington. Much of the work there was policy based and it showed Bird where his true passion lies: command.He applied for Waikato Police's top job for the challenge, he said.

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The mission? To develop the capability of staff and to give them the overall vision of the what and allowing them to develop their own how. Streamlining back office tasks and getting more staff on the beat is on the cards too.

Bird said his leadership will revolve around three key words: set, enable, expect. 

''I will set the direction, enable the staff to do it by providing the resources and other things and the expectation is they will deliver back the results that the community would actually reasonably expect.''

While the framework is generic, he'll have his own personal spin.

''I am one that will drive accountability pretty high and hard - very simple views are that once we have an agreed approach to it that's what we're looking to deliver and we will deliver it. I have a very strong no excuse philosophy.''

Bird would have had no excuses if the new Prevention First strategy failed.

Yet on July 2, it picked up the Prime Ministers Award at the IPANZ Public Sector Excellence Awards. He has also just returned from the Australasian crime prevention forum where ''we basically got told that NZ Police is actually the best in the world''.

During the IPANZ awards Bird was tempted to say one of the critical success factors was forcing the Australian police to follow the Kiwi lead.

''That did bring a real smile,'' Bird said, ''when you realise they're trying to pick up everything we've done because they've always been lock 'em up throw the key away. But now their government's saying, hold on a second, what are they doing over there?''

Prevention First has been a massive shift for police. But as Bird said, they will never arrest their way out of trouble.

''That can't happen. The only thing you do then is build more prisons and employ more police officers. It's the only way you could do it.''

- Waikato Times

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