Taking charge of Rodney’s police force is a role that Inspector Bruce O’Brien says he is especially invested in, having lived in the area since childhood.
On October 30, Inspector O’Brien took over the role of Rodney Area Commander, vacated by Inspector Mark Fergus.
Inspector O’Brien has lived on the Hibiscus Coast since 1985, when his parents moved to Red Beach, and is bringing up his own family of two young children in Millwater.
Plumbing’s loss was the police’s gain – on leaving school he took up an apprenticeship but as soon as he turned 19, he handed in his wrench and applied to join the police.
He credits his neighbour, Orewa policeman Jon Brambley, who gave him his first ride in a police car and came along on school camps, with inspiring him to consider the police as a career.
“Jon was a bit of a role model, who seemed to know everyone,” he says.
In a varied career, Inspector O’Brien has worked from Whangarei to South Auckland, including several stints in Orewa. He has policed large sporting fixtures and concerts as part of Auckland city’s tactical policing unit and at one time was officer-in-charge of Auckland airport which, he says, is like a small city in itself, with around 20,000 people working in its environs every 24 hours.
Inspector O’Brien says ‘family harm’ is an area where a lot of the work stays with you long after the incidents are over and that it is important that police put themselves in the shoes of the people they are dealing with.
“At times you have to make split second decisions which could potentially have long-term consequences, so there is a lot of pressure on police to get it right,” he says.
“Everyone makes mistakes and most learn from them,” he says. “Persistent offenders are a small percentage, but they are responsible for the most harm in our communities and they are the ones we focus on.”
Reducing the number of burglaries and returning stolen property, including some precious family heirlooms, is part of the job he has found particularly satisfying.
After promotion to Inspector, he worked as Area Prevention Manager in Manurewa; here the focus was on working on crime prevention alongside government agencies and community organisations.
Inspector O’Brien says that he’s seen policing change significantly, with moves to reflect the ethnic makeup of the community and bring more women into the force.
Off duty, he loves spending time with his family. He is also is a keen fisher who loves to travel and keep himself fit and healthy.
Currently, he is in the middle of a Masters degree in Criminology and Management at the University of Cambridge in the UK. A key element of this is the study of how various enforcement or preventative tactics work (or don’t work) on particular types of crime. Next year he will write his thesis, which he says will be around reducing re-offending.
In Rodney, he says a big focus will be road policing and burglary, along with anti-social behaviour and vehicle crime.
“I’m up for the challenge,” he says. “We want to make sure people feel safe living in this community, which I feel is the best part of New Zealand. I hope they will have trust in the police and bring their problems to us.”