Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Shutter closes on 42 year career

42 years in the job – Wayne Hendrikse as a new recruit and in his last week on the job.

When something tragic happens in the Bay of Plenty, more often than not it has been Senior Constable Wayne Hendrikse at the scene behind the camera.

From homicides to suicides, road crashes to serious crime, it’s been Wayne’s role to capture a scene many would prefer to forget – ensuring there is evidence there to hold an offender to account or to assist a coroner with a finding.

The tally of bodies he’s photographed sits at 413. That doesn’t count the ones where he’s been training new photographers, or the dozens he helped identify in Thailand in the aftermath of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

But now – after 42 years in New Zealand Police and more than two decades of those in the forensic photography section – Wayne retires from Police this week after being up close to death more than almost anyone in the job.

Wayne at his farewell.

Just 17 years old when he joined Police, Wayne was not old enough to legally buy alcohol or be in licensed premises on his own. When he graduated at 18, he was old enough to start making arrests yet he still couldn’t legally buy alcohol on his own.

Over four decades he has seen significant change. His first pay slip showed an annual cadet salary of just $4500 and, when he wanted to marry, there was an application needed for permission.

Wayne worked across Rotorua and Murupara and was involved in policing the 1981 Springbok Tour. His move to photography at the end of 1999 came when he realised his role in the control room was likely to be centralised, and there was work in the photography section.

Colleagues said goodbye with a heartfelt haka.

“I always say I never had an interest in photography, but in saying that my mum used to do a lot of home photography and we set up a dark room in the laundry.”

He and fellow photographer Nick Voysey led New Zealand Police in the move to digital after seeing the media turn up at scenes with their new equipment

“We costed it out and worked out we’d save $1000 a month by going to digital. The area commander at the time, Inspector Ray Sutton, was supportive and agreed. For four years, we were the only Police district using digital.

“I was the first police photographer in the country to photograph a homicide using a digital camera.”

Wayne admits it was comforting when the rest of the country followed the Bay’s lead.

Just as digital photography changed the way police photographers worked, the introduction of Google Maps reduced the need to hire helicopters for aerial photos.

Through the significant number of scenes he has photographed – and the breadth of his work – Wayne developed a huge amount of knowledge about all aspects of policing. CIB colleagues say his eye for detail has been responsible for solving at least one homicide.

“You get one chance to photograph a scene,” he says.

The role is also unique in that photographers are often there photographing not only a victim, but the scene and alleged offenders – giving them a real understanding of cases.

On occasions he’s arrived at scenes to find victims he knows. He’s been on the end of a phone call informing him his brother – a police officer in Gisborne at the time – had been stabbed on duty and seriously injured.

“That really shook my parents up, especially my dad. There were four of us siblings serving in Police at the time.”

It didn’t, however, shake his desire to continue in the job.

Wayne was part of the fifth rotation of staff to Thailand after the tsunami. Three months after the disaster, Wayne was involved in helping identify dozens of victims – from photographing bodies which had been stored for months to working alongside the dental team to help obtain and process dental X-rays.

While the smell of the mortuary sticks with him, Wayne says working with a team of international experts and helping return victims to their families gave him a sense of satisfaction.

He is reluctant to talk about achievements, saying instead that he set about each day to do his job to the best of his ability.

“I had no interest in wanting to leave my mark. If I have, it’s been purely accidental.”

After clocking up more than 42 years, and with his 60th birthday looming, Wayne says the time’s now right to move on.

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