When Detective Inspector Uraia Vakaruru – known as ‘UV’ – took a call from NZ Police Commissioner Andrew Coster, he wasn’t at all sure it would be good news.
“I remember receiving the call from the Commissioner and initially thinking ‘This can only mean one of two things – I’m being sent on a project or something has occurred that hasn’t ended well,” he says. “Or both…”
The call turned out to be very good news – he was to receive the Police Meritorious Service Medal, the highest honour that can be made by the Commissioner, presented for outstanding policing service.
The medal was presented by Commissioner Andrew Coster at the Auckland City District Award Ceremony this week.
UV, the 21st recipient of the MSM since it was first presented in 2014, says it is extremely humbling and has been quite the journey thus far.
“As a Pacific leader in New Zealand Police, working at this level, I’ve never taken it for granted,” he says.
“It’s not only been a privilege, but I’m always hopeful I can be that role model for others interested in the career pathways that have been a key part of my time in NZ Police – CIB, AOS and STG.”
UV joined Police 28 years ago and has worked across a number of workgroups in Counties Manukau and Auckland City Districts. He is now District Manager Criminal Investigation in Auckland City.
The MSM recognises his service to CIB in Counties Manukau and Auckland City, to Tāmaki Makaurau AOS, and his leadership role in Tāmaki Makaurau Pacific staff development.
“The award is not mine alone, but for those who have been critical in enabling me to deliver the policing work during my journey,” he says.
“I have been blessed with a truly supportive and patient wife, Talita, who along with my daughter Emma has been my anchor and foundation at home.
“They have put up with 20-plus years of call-outs, overtime in CIB and AOS work; having to share me with the job.
“It’s also for colleagues I’ve worked for and with over the years, whether on high-profile investigations, AOS/STG operations, or the development of our people in their own journeys in Police.
“I’m blessed to have received this award; I will proudly wear it for all of us as a sign of the work we’ve collectively achieved over the years.”
UV has also helped shape what we now know as the Tāmaki Makaurau Pacific Leadership Group.
“We commenced a Pacific Support network in 2009-10, bringing together Pacific NCO’s across the three districts, providing mentoring and support in their new roles,” he says.
“It grew into what it is today with the Tāmaki Makaurau Pacific Support Network for all ranks and our Police employees, providing mentoring and support and supplementing the welfare assistance often required for Pacific and ethnic staff.”
A good work-life balance is important, he says. “Spending quality time with my girls on holidays or just at home keeps me well grounded.
“I played senior rugby in the Auckland Competition in the 90s, until injuries took their toll. Now I spend time at the gym weekly, which assists with mental and health wellbeing.”
And for those seeking new challenges within Police, there is a place for you, he says.
“I was a young cop in South Auckland in the early 90s, working with leaders who were already role-modelling values such as professionalism, respect, integrity, empathy and humility when dealing with victims and offenders.
“I respected them not because they were good cops, but because they were good people who demonstrated these values while managing the challenges of policing in that era.
“On reflection, they were my role models – they encouraged and drove the potential they saw in me to try something different, to work hard, to challenge myself, to work out of my comfort zone and ultimately build resilience.
“That advice is just as relevant and poignant today, so it’s now my opportunity to play it forward for our people so they can be the best at what they do.”