Queen’s Birthday Honours for two police officers
One is a leading expert in underwater search and recovery operations and the other an advocate for criminal justice initiatives in Tairawhiti, and their work has resulted in Queen’s Birthday Honours announced today.
Senior Sergeant Bruce Adams, the head of the Police National Dive Squad, becomes a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for services to New Zealand Police and the community, and Sergeant Whitiaera (Whitiaira) Timutimu, a Māori Responsiveness Adviser, receives a Queen’s Service Medal (QSM) for her services to criminal justice programmes and the community.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said the recognition was well deserved as both officers are highly respected for their expertise and outstanding service in their respective fields.
“I’m sure their whānau, friends, colleagues and the many people they interact with will be just as pleased as I am to see they have been recognised at the highest level for their mahi.”
Senior Sergeant Adams has been on the Dive Squad for 28 years and has headed the team since 2002.
His expertise in dive search and recovery operations is valued within police and external agencies, as is his input to reviewing and refining worksafe practices in the dive industry sector.
Sergeant Timutimu’s recognition is all the more special as the nomination came from the community she works with and cares for. She’s heavily involved with mentoring young people, and in finding innovative solutions to address needs.
Senior Sergeant Adams said the MNZM is a big surprise. He sees it as recognition for Police, and for everyone who has been part of the Dive Squad’s 50 years of history and development.
The Squad is deployed around 70 times a year, searching and recovering evidence, and sadly all too often looking for bodies.
“Dive conditions in most of our jobs are never pleasant and with low to nil visibility.
"You’re working in incredibly challenging environments where we rely on our planning, training, equipment and teamwork.
“Every time we dive, we dive with a purpose and to make a difference,” he says.
“We put ourselves in the shoes of people who have lost loved ones and do everything we can to find the victims and bring them home.
“Treating people with respect, empathy and compassion are important to me personally, and it’s very much part of the squad’s ethos.
"Taking time to help provide answers to families of victims and respecting cultural practices when bodies are brought ashore, just part of what we do.”
Ideally, he says, no-one would lose their life in a preventable water tragedy.
This is another reason why he supports Tuakana Teina youth programmes and other initiatives to help instil safety skills and messages.
Sergeant Timutimu is also surprised by her award.
She’s quick to say that the QSM is not all about her, but rather reflects the privilege of working with iwi, hapu and whānau to set up programmes which work for them.
As the first police officer to work from a runanga rather than a police station, “I’m one of many,” she says.
Sergeant Timutimu credits Uncle Api – Apirani Mahuika – for his leadership, mentoring and vision.
He was a founding member of the Commissioner’s Māori Focus Forum, and had a leading role in developing Police’s Responsiveness to Māori strategy and establishing Iwi Liaison Officers.
The citation for her award refers to her work supporting the reintegration of former inmates into the community.
This includes helping to direct the formation of programmes such as the ATAWHAI Charitable Trust, which is an umbrella for a wide range of youth mentoring initiatives including fitness based programmes un with volunteers drawn from Police, Fire and Emergency New Zealand, New Zealand Defence, and Māori Wardens.
Other programmes include Qmunity Youth which mentors LGBTQI+ young people, Tuakana Teina, mentoring youth with a parent in prison, and a community garden food growing project.
Building strong relationships within the community is the key to creating solutions which are sustainable, she says.