Thursday, May 30, 2024

36 years of dedicated service

If it wasn’t for a visit to a recruiting office back in the day, Claire Bibby might have ended up writing an article like this.

Starting out as a journalist covering rural life, she soon changed course and devoted 36 years to Police and the community before retiring this month.

Looking at her personal file, Claire says her focus on the standing of Police in the community was prominent in her being recommended as a recruit.

“Reflecting on my career, it’s fair to say there is a strong commitment and dedication to bringing Police and community closer together.”

Claire signed up for Police at the age of 20 and joined 36 colleagues in Wing 95 at the Police College in 1985 before being posted to Gisborne.

“I was fortunate having the good influence of senior police officers in the formative part of my career, that shaped my policing approach.

“Their guidance set me on a path that has resulted in some wonderful successes for Police and for the people we provide a service to.”

Early in her career, Claire was rostered to work in Ruatōria during troubling times with the Rastafarians.

“There were multiple arsons, a beheading, and a police officer was kidnapped. I was rostered to work there for five weeks, including night shift on my own over Christmas. Detective Rex Harrison took me around the local marae and told the community there was to be no trouble and no fires because I was working, and everyone needed a rest and some peace with their families.

“The locals organised a roster and worked alongside me until 1am and there was no trouble. That’s when I learned how police and community could work together to keep the peace.

Another positive influencer was Senior Constable Aporo Joyce of Cannons Creek.

“I moved to Porirua in 1987. Kapiti-Mana was selected as the pilot for community policing and I was invited to work alongside Aporo. He was nearing the end of his career and wanted to pass on his knowledge and experience to the next generation of Police.

“Aporo taught me how to engage with the community in a way that they did the work for you. He wanted the leaders in the community to take ownership of their community and to turn young people’s lives around for the better.”

Promotion to sergeant in 1994 saw Claire travel up country and a supervisory job at Palmerston North, taking in the city centre beat constables, and community policing staff at Massey University and Linton.

“It was an era of violence in the city centre. I put the learning into practice, working in partnership with my Police colleagues and the mayor to reduce robberies and assaults in The Square.”

The Council redesigned the area, improving lighting, moving paths, redesigning the carpark and rest-rooms.

In the first year, robberies dropped from 34–10, and there were big reductions in all types of assaults.

On promotion to senior sergeant at the Police College, Claire continued to work with the community, incorporating its voice into national training.

“After consulting with the Māori doctors and an inter-agency advisory group, I included tikanga and te reo Māori in our Custodial Management Suicide Awareness (CMSA) training packages. This was the beginning of normalising the use of te reo Māori beyond recruit training.

“The training resulted in a significant drop in suicides and attempted suicides, as we were teaching our police how best to care for people from the moment they were first detained.”

Another task involved the Commissioner wanting Police to better understand the Muslim culture after the Bali bombings.

“We developed an ethnic strategy, which saw the introduction of ethnic liaison officers, the Language Line, and training in religious and ethnic diversity.

“I worked closely with Kefeng Chu, the police strategic advisor for ethnic people. I developed the training needs analysis and he developed the first Ethnic Strategy for New Zealand Police.

“Together we went on to design the first ethnic and religious diversity training for police recruits and a continuing education programme for Police in religious and ethnic diversity.”

This work achieved international recognition as it was considered a world first, and Claire was invited to present on it to conferences.

“This was the beginning of my realisation that our work in New Zealand Police has international influence, and the role of Police internationally supporting us to achieve our goals.”

Claire says her deployment to the Solomon Islands in 2011 was the beginning of a new phase in her policing career, encouraging Police and Defence to communicate with women to prevent conflict and maintain a peaceful and secure country.

She later contributed to the development of a National Action Plan for Women, Peace and Security, which was taken to the United Nations Security Council in 2015. In 2018, Claire achieved the Australasian Council of Women and Policing Award for Excellence in her research on giving women a voice in leadership for peace and security, and in 2019 she was a finalist in the Women of Influence.

One of her last frontline roles was as a district shift supervisor in Counties Manukau, and on 20 January she left her job as a Continuous Improvement Advisor with the Emergency Communication Centres.

Of her last role, she says it “has given me the best opportunities to influence better engagement between the security sector and civil sector. In particular, the report on the lessons identified in Whakaari/White Island, which were assessed against the recommendations from Operation Deans.”

For Claire, the fundamentals of policing are bound to where it all began in the mid-80s.

“What I learned from Ruatōria and Porirua is the importance of working in partnership with the community. We only know a fraction of what goes on in the community. They know what’s happening. We police with their consent.

“We must continue to develop and build relationships with our communities to keep our communities and country safe and secure.”

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