The officer in charge of training, senior sergeant Maeva Kirikava, says that “for me, being in the police force has been about doing something positive for the community.
“The general rule of thumb here is that either everyone is related or everyone knows each other on the island. It’s a big community and it’s satisfying being able to make a difference to it.”
The benefit of police training, says Kirikava, is that the discipline can lead to other jobs in other ministerial departments such as in investigation or security.
“It can really open doors for those wanting to get into the public or the private sector, if that’s what they want.”
He says there is also an opportunity to network with police in other areas of the Pacific, including Tonga, Vanuatu, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, as well as short attachments in New Zealand.
New recruits undergo 16 weeks of training, which involves a mix of theory and practical activities to reinforce learning.
“It sets the foundation so that when they graduate they can build on what they’ve already learned,” says Kirikava.
“Over the years we’ve moved away from just a lecturing-type environment to more hands-on, but the principles of training remain the same and recruits are encouraged to ask for help and for information. Common sense prevails.” Practical training covers two phases. The first is putting into practice the theory covered through things like role playing, and the second phase involves moving into the units and working alongside officers in a controlled situation.
“That part of the learning is invaluable,” says Kirikava.
Training culminates in “the longest day”, which is about enabling the recruits to test their mental and physical fitness, and push their limits.
It involves individual and team work, including a trek across the island, carrying logs, and a swim from Trader Jacks to the Boiler.
“We do this activity close to the finish of training and it really gives them a sense of achievement, that nothing is impossible to overcome,” says Kirikava.
Once training is finished, all graduates go directly to the Cook Islands Police station, working in the front office where most standard cases are dealt with, “so they can solidify what they’ve learned”.
Kirikava says the highlight for him has been watching recruits advance into their different occupations.
“Two from the last intake have moved into specialist areas – one into the intelligence unit and the other is a drug-dog handler. They do border security, that type of thing.
“It’s great to see them take up opportunities in the field. Actually, from the intake before that, two went into serious crimes investigation.”
“My message is that these guys put their heads down and got on with what they were supposed to do and were quickly identified as potential leaders. Now police are investing in them, giving them the opportunities. The opportunities are there.”
Kirikava says applications for the next police recruitment should go to the Cook Islands Police human resources department and will close once numbers are reached, which should be in the next couple of months. Applicants must be 18 years or older.