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Wednesday, 20 March 2019 01:00 pm

Police are people too – on and off the beat

Nov 30th, 2017 | By | Category: Featured Article, Front Page Layout, News


Krista shows us the police lights: Photo: Elijah Hill

Krista Kite pulls her car over and whips out her phone.

She wants to check on her baby daughter, and opens an app on her phone which is connected to her baby monitor.

Her partner still hasn’t answered a text she sent earlier, so she is expecting to see him struggling to get the baby to go to sleep.

But baby is sleeping soundly in her cot.

“Aw, he did good,” says Krista says proudly, showing off her daughter.

She places the phone back into the compartment under the dash board. The radio is crackling next to it, bursts of strange letters and numbers from it. It’s as confusing as a foreign language, but Krista understands it because knowing how to speak police code is second nature to a cop.

Going on a ride along is almost like watching an episode of ‘Police 10-7’ but more real.

Krista in her element while on patrol. Photo: Elijah Hill

In between the moments of drama, Krista sings along to the radio, and calls home to check her family is OK. Just like anyone working the late shift.

The car gets strange looks and double takes, as it explores the streets of Porirua. Headlights dip suddenly as speeding drivers realise who is heading towards them and hit the brakes. You don’t want to drive past the cops at 10, or 20 kilometres over the speed limit.

Krista is ready for anything that could happen, her black hair up in a bun, with a single plait running into it to keep her hair out of her face, a fluorescent vest over unmistakable blue uniform, which is busy with police paraphernalia such as taser and radio.

It’s a quiet night in Porirua as the familiar white, blue and yellow livery of the police car roams familiar streets. It pulls into carparks, which are hotspots for young people taking the homemade version of synthetic cannabis. It’s dangerous. It causes people to have seizures, and to fall asleep in the middle of major Wellington intersections. Its use is on the rise though. As Krista says, meth is like the Gucci of drugs. Synthetic cannabis, however, is easy and cheap to make. It’s basic economics. Tonight however, the carpark is empty; the only evidence of people having been there is the tyre tracks from cars being spun around while driven at high speeds.

The car turns and heads down Cannons Creek. Wellington workers have the highest medium income of anywhere in the country, but this figure does not extend as far as Cannons Creek. It is mainly run down state houses that have suffered from neglect. If people try and claim that poverty does not exist in New Zealand, drive them down Cannon’s Creek. It’s a good way to learn the truth.

The police car: Photo: Elijah Hill

The police radio crackles to life with a domestic dispute.

“Let’s go,” Krista says. She drives away from Cannon’s Creek and into streets of big houses – domestic violence is by no means limited to the poor.

She’s the first to arrive on site, and idles the car around the corner, out of view of the house. Police recruits are taught in college that it’s better to walk up to the house than to drive. She communicates over the radio that she is onsite, but cannot hear anything.

The street is silent.

Backup arrives, four police in total. They all take off their fluorescent vests, opting instead for the plain blue, unmistakable uniform. All four head up to the house, not knowing what they are walking into. They never do.  This one turns out to not be much. A group of people have drunk a bit much and were yelling loudly at their TV.

Next stop was a bail check. The house stands on a perfectly normal, middle class suburban street. It would surprise most people that the house is home to someone who is out on bail. The person is standing in the window. Krista smiles and waves from her car as the curtains are drawn.

She does that a lot throughout the shift.

Every time someone does a double take at the cop car, or throws a dirty look, she smiles and waves. It’s a simple action that conveys a lot. The police aren’t meant to be a scary presence when they arrive on your street. They are there to keep everyone safe.

They are great talkers too. If they see anything happening, or are worried that someone is unsafe, they’ll pull over and talk to the people involved.

“You really have to have the gift of the gab in this job.”

Krista drives around the roads of Porirua, from Pukerua Bay in the north, to Tawa in the south. She knows the streets well.

She heads up a hill, the lights of Porirua City sparkling below. The street is mainly lifestyle blocks, home to people who want an idyllic country life with the convenience of the city just down the road.

Parked on the side of the road is a solitary car. It seems out of place, sitting far away from anything, surrounded by farmland. As Krista’s Commodore crawls closer steamed-up windows with dribbles of condensation become obvious. There is movement inside as police headlights fills the other car with light.

Krista stops and rolls down her window. After a pause the occupants of the other car do the same.

“Are you alright.”

The two people nod sheepishly, and ask if they are allowed to be parked there. Krista tells them that it’s fine, and asks again if they are alright. When they say yes, she smiles, winds her window back up and waves as she drives off.

“We all know what they were doing,” she laughs.

Technically having sex in a car on a public street is an ‘indecent act in a public place,’ and is illegal. But in the middle of nowhere, late at night, the police may let it go.

Police pick their battles.

A shot rings out. To us, the shot is a string of letters and numbers, spoken hurriedly over the police radio. To the taxi driver who was shot through the shoulder though, it was a real sound. A single bang that luckily didn’t end his life.

“Within in a split second your whole shift could change,” says Krista as we sit and listen.

She’s speaking about police shifts of course. It’s also true of the taxi driver though. It’s true of everyone who wakes up in the morning. We never know what is going to happen.

Krista doesn’t go to the call out. We are too far away and besides, she has two journalism students in her car.

“SILENCE, SILENCE, SILENCE,” the radio demands.

It means that no one else can use that radio channel; it is reserved for the shooting.

“We are just everyday people, this shit scares me just as much as it scares you,” Krista reflects.

The difference is that while everyone else runs away from danger, the cops run towards it.

The night was not over for Wellington Police. A stabbing has occurred.

“SILENCE, SILENCE, SILENCE.” The channel is now reserved for the stabbing. It’s rare in Wellington for the silence call to come out twice in one night.

It’s hard describe the feeling of knowing drama is occurring in Wellington City, while we meander around Porirua. But that’s the truth of it. It doesn’t matter what’s going down somewhere else, there are still speeders to stop, and drunk drivers to catch. A drunk driver is, after all, just as dangerous as a person with a gun. Communities have to be kept safe from both.

Cops had to be brought down to Wellington City from the Hutt. A shooting and a stabbing is a big enough night for the police, but on top of that it’s the night the Kiwi’s played Fiji in rugby league in Wellington, and local police can’t cover all three by themselves.
The shooting is all over the news the next day, a taxi driver shot through the arm in the affluent suburb of Miramar.

Not the stabbing though… both people involved were homeless.

If you know a cop, you’ll know it can be hard to send them off to work each day. After all, what if that’s the day that they don’t come home. No one thinks that way about taxi drivers, but after all, the taxi driver came pretty close to not coming home either.

“Being a cop is no more dangerous than that,” says Krista.

Like most mothers, the screen saver on Krista’s phone is a picture of her three daughters, the baby and twin seven-year-olds. When that mother is a cop though, the picture is more poignant. It’s a reminder of why the cops do what they do. Every day they head out into the street. They run towards situations that everyone else is running away from. And while they do this to keep the entire community safe, they all have specific people that keep them going.

After all, police are people too.


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