Life in the Police Force
Terence McConnell, the writer of this article, is the younger son of Clifford and Marewa McConnell, who are head teachers at Paparore and Ahipara Maori schools. His elder brother Riri is in the R.N.Z.A.F. at Ohakea, and his sister, Hui-a-rei Wilkinson, is teaching in Kaitaia. Feeling that there were enough teachers in one family, Terry chose a different career.
I went to Paparore primary school, where I was taught by my parents, and attended Kaitaia College from 1959 to 1963, passing school certificate in 1962, but academically I did not have an impressive school record. I played rugby for the 1st XV, and represented the College in swimming.
In my last year at college I realised that there was more to life than just going to school for sports (something that my teachers had been trying to tell me for the past three years), so I looked for a job that could offer me good conditions and career prospects and would give me an opportunity to spend a fair amount of time out doors. I thought of the armed services and of the Police Department and decided on the latter, as offering the conditions and career prospects I wished for and a life I did not really know about but felt I would like.
I applied in Kaitaia at the local Police Station, was tested and medically examined in Whangarei, and was finally accepted for the Police Cadet Course of 1964/65. I could also have joined as a recruit when I turned 19 if I had been too old for a cadetship.
Cadet courses have been going for only 10 years, with an intake of approximately 40 cadets each January. My intake was the first large one and consisted of 80 cadets.
The course involves 19 months of intensive schooling and training at the Police Training School, Trentham, Wellington. Most of us were of School Certificate standard and some had higher academic qualifications. During the course we were instructed thoroughly in Police law and practice, English and current world affairs, and touch typing, in which we had to pass a State Services Commission examination.
Police law and practice consisted of Criminal law and Case law in New Zealand, Court procedure and evidence, and Police practice and duties. In English we did grammar, current affairs and a project in which we studied and discussed matters pertaining to Police work, e.g., alcoholics and their problems, habitual criminals, juvenile delinquency in New Zealand, drug addiction, crime prevention, etc.
We also had an intensive physical training course emphasising fitness and self-defence or unarmed combat. This fitness course was brought to a peak when we spent 10 days in the Tararua Ranges on a practice search and rescue exercise. This also included bush Iore, navigation in bush country — both day and night, rock climbing, river crossing and search and rescue methods.
Sport was compulsory, and I played softball
During his Police Cadet training, Terry McConnell receives ‘first aid’ in the bush from Constable S. Mangell, while Senior Sergeant D. N. Scott looks on.
I thought the course was hard and exacting—80 started and only 63 graduated—but considered it very satisfying and worthwhile. We lived in barracks divided into three-bed cubicles, one single bed and two bunks. They seemed somewhat crowded and it appeared as if everyone was living in another's pocket but we soon became used to it and even became used to the wide range of snoring that went on at night. Discipline appeared to be hard but we realised that if we took risks we had to be prepared to take the consequences. My parents, like the other 79 cadets' parents, were I think a little worried over my welfare and well-being while living away from home and their control. I fear that our instructors had the same sentiments because we never seemed to have enough time to ourselves or enough time to become bored or to play up.
Our meals were eaten at the Immigration Hostel at Trentham, which also houses and feeds the apprentices under the Maori Affairs apprenticeship scheme. The food was plain and wholesome, but we never seemed to get enough for our growing bodies. However, in the 19 months I was at the training school I put on three stone and grew two inches. Apart from messing facilities, the training school is self-contained and consists of a gymnasium, barracks, classrooms, administrative block, canteen, laundry, Police library, Police museum and of course a parade ground.
On my first day at the training school I was very shocked and surprised to find that I was the only Maori among the 80 cadets. My fears were short lived, for I was accepted as just another person who simply wanted to be a Policeman.
On my graduation from Trentham I was posted to Wellington, moving into Holland House, the Wellington Police Barracks. Here at long last was single accommodation for 147 single men. It has a gymnasium and games rooms for darts, table tennis, etc. and a TV lounge. The food is excellent.
I was first stationed at Taranaki Street Police Station, spending two months doing beat work and eight months doing patrol car work. I enjoyed my relatively short time on beat work because most of my training had been in
theory and now I welcomed the opportunity to put theory into practice and also acquire confidence. When I went on to patrol car work I found this most varied and interesting with fresh problems requiring attention. Coming from a small place, my idea of a Policeman's duties was attending the odd motor accident or clearing the local hotel, but now I was finding, as I had been taught, what a wide field Police duties cover. From motor accidents to fights, traffic offences, husband and wife disputes, thefts, false pretences, attending to all sudden deaths or deaths in suspicious circumstances, burglaries, drawing of raffles, cash escorts, escorting persons sentenced to prison terms and even visits to the person who is quite sure the next door neighbour is trying to poison her favourite cat or dog.
In the very short time I have now been out of the training school it seems that an increasing number of young Maori people are coming to the notice of the Police. The prospect of good jobs with good money quite naturally brings them to the city, but unfortunately, being too far away for parental control, some younger people seem to be easily led and drift in with bad company. I feel that not enough effort is made to accommodate these young people and so they move into flats or boarding houses where there are just not enough facilities for them to enjoy their spare time. They drift into a rut of first pictures and then TV, but these soon become boring to a person who is not doing something constructive with his free time. From there it spreads to drinking heavily at an early age, getting into trouble, and of course coming under the notice of the Police. The unfortunate part of this is that a large proportion of them are not very worried, and even take pride in the fact that they have had a fight in the street, hit a taxi driver because the fare was too high or kicked in a shop window. This type of behaviour is not committed by Maori alone but as I have said there seems to be an increasing proportion of Maoris coming under our notice. Some seem to think that because I am a Maori I should treat them more lightly than another Policeman would, but I cannot do this.
As well as patrol car and beat work there are many career opportunities for cadets, including photography, fingerprinting, administration, and work with dogs. I can recommend Police training, and the interesting and active life which follows.