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Norman George: A tribute to those who leave giant impact on their nation

Tuesday 11 February 2020 | Published in Editorials

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Norman George: A tribute to those who leave giant impact on their nation
Police officers at a checkpoint in Avarua. 20021023

Columnist Norman George pays a tribute to the police officers in the country.

All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, that Lord God made them all. Where will we be without those who provide us with critical basic services? To keep electricity sparking, water running, treat the sick and keep our people alive? Those who teach our kids, the service providers, where will the list end?

This column will not just discuss the high flyers. We now visit ground zero.

Let us look at the drones and working bees, the toilers, the shift workers, the back breakers and those who put their lives on the line to protect us.

In this area we need to acknowledge the role of so many of our expatriate brethren from New Zealand. Our history will not be complete without them. They too made a giant impact on our past.

The police service began with men only. They wore khaki long trousers and short sleeved shirts. Khaki was a favourite uniform colour, the boys brigade had it, the boys scouts, and public health workers wore them as well. Sometimes when younger men wore shorts in the police, without a hat, it was hard to tell whether you are seeing a boys scout or boys brigade.

In the old days policemen were selected from big strong highly respected village men. They usually had a good reputation of church attendances and of sober habits. Education had little to do with it. Some big fellows in the police service could barely read and write. The most important quality was to be feared and respected.

A lot of the past cops were men weighing 200 to 300 pounds. You don’t mess with them! Street justice was normal. At a street brawl scene, the offenders are beaten up by the village cops and sent home. Consuming home brew was the most common offence.

We used to supply New Zealand with citrus oranges, before Kerikeri oranges took over. The colonials banned homebrew drinking to prevent men raiding orange plots to steal ripe oranges to make home brew. An offender can be fined 10 shillings for consuming homebrew.

Tupapa constable Tere Kaivananga (Tupi) was most feared. I saw him once backhand two brawling youths. They both got knocked out and slept soundly on the grass. Keiti Terepo from Titikaveka was a great scrapper. Given the slightest excuse Keiti will go charging into a brawl with fists flying! I heard the opposite nowadays, cops sprinting away from scraps.

Senior Sergeant Teava Iro, a robust backline rugby player was also feared. Hard work in the plantation made him bristle with muscle, which made him powerful and menacing.

In the village of Ngatangiia was Constable Tupai Ama. At 6ft 4inches, he was imposing. Constable Teretai Monga was also another big man from Ngatangiia. Both men kept Ngatangiia and Matavera well policed.

Two other giant men, senior sergeant Tutai Teura from Avatiu and senior sergeant George Wichman of Arorangi were dedicated policemen. Wichman was a good detective, solving quite a lot of crimes.

The New Zealand Police provided us with all our police chiefs until the mid-1960s. I recall police chiefs O’Halloran and Jack Best. They were good men. Jack Best’s son John served in the New Zealand Police with me.

Changes arrived when younger men were recruited into the police service. The first police cadets were Tangata Nekeare and Fred Goodwin, now Sir Frederick Goodwin.

Tangata Nekeare was from the island of Mitiaro, but grew up in Rarotonga. When he attended the NZ Police training school in Trentham, Wellington, he graduated as one of the top students. Ta was not tall and of medium build, but he was highly intelligent, smart and a top detective. He succeeded Bill Prentice from New Zealand in mid-1960s. Sir Fred Goodwin became police chief when Tangata Nekeare resigned.

Other new generation of Cook Islands Police career officers were Goldie Goldy, straight out of Police Cadet School, Inspector Tiki Matapo, later Titikaveka

MP and high commissioner to NZ, Chief Inspector Tearoa Tini, Tepou Boaza, Nee Vaiimene, Tepure Tapaitau, Archer Hosking and Richard Browne.

I did a short stint in the Cook Islands Police for two years, starting off as a cadet and rose to the rank of sub inspector before joining the NZ Police to satisfy burning ambitions. Those of our boys who became commissioners include Bobby Matapo, Pira Wichman and now Maara Tetava. Sir Frederick Goodwin became a three term Queen’s Representative.

I hope one day we will have a woman police commissioner.

My message to young men and women, join the police as a stepping stone to other careers. It will discipline you, toughen you up, build up your confidence and prepare you to meet all obstacles.

To this day, I am so proud to have served in the police service and will do it again if I have a choice. God bless our police men and women. Ka kite.