Life on the beat

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Join us: Sergeant Keith Newell and constable Lisa Franz

Queenstown cop shop is looking for new recruits. But what’s it really like for the boys and girls in blue? Louise Scott gets the lowdown

Keith Newell has been a copper for nearly 30 years – newbie constable Lisa Franz just eight months.

But when asked why they signed up to the force the answer is the same.

“I wanted to make a difference.”

Policing in Queenstown has changed over the years.

Demands have increased as more people flood into the resort.

Newell says new technology has been an advantage – but the biggest tool in their kit is being out on the beat.

It isn’t easy though – the job can be both rewarding and frustrating, he says.

“The consequences of having too much to drink has a huge impact on what we do.

“We hear all the time from various agencies how alcohol filters its way down into society and the negatives that go with that.

“There aren’t too many positives coming out of a drunk, obnoxious person at 4 o’clock in the morning.

“Nothing surprises me.

“I don’t think I will ever be surprised at what some people get up to or accept as good behaviour.

“But it is all par for the course.

“You go to work, you do your job.”

He knows his stuff.

He was the resort’s alcohol harm reduction officer for five years and the battle with booze has been a constant theme of his career.

Newbie Franz, who’s originally from Germany, has been surprised by the amount of crime in Queenstown.

She thinks there’s a naivety among some locals who consider the resort is a crime-free bubble.

Not the case, say the pair – there’s rarely a dull moment.

Franz: “There is no such thing as a typical day. Day shift is more traffic, patrolling, complaints, vehicle accidents. Night shifts would be more drunken disorderly behaviour or drink-drivers.”

Newell graduated in 1988 and has done stints in the North Island, Invercargill and his home town of Dunedin.

Franz graduated in September last year after a four-month training camp in Wellington.

Despite what she calls efficient and informative training, nothing can prepare you for real-life policing.

“You have to act fast all the time.

“Making that decision right there.

“One of the biggest challenges is taking action yourself rather than being instructed to do so.

“Seeing trauma, such as injury in vehicle accidents or suicides.

“Dead bodies are hard to deal with – nothing prepares you for that.”

Newell agrees and says it doesn’t get easier as a senior officer.

“Dealing with death is never easy.

“You learn to deal with it in your own way and you do have to accept it is part of your job and just get on with it.”

Despite the harsh reality of what life on the beat brings, the pair describe it as a hugely fulfilling job.

Newell: “The most rewarding bit is getting the right outcome for the victim. We are often dealing with people who, for whatever reason, are needing our help.

“It is a great study of the human psyche. You get to see all that is good and bad in people and at the end of the day there are a few hard-case stories to tell.”

Queenstown police are holding an info session this month for anyone interested in a copper career.

Franz’s advice – “Go for it. It is the most rewarding job I have ever had.”

Thirty years in, Newell has no regrets either.

“It can be draining at times and frustrating but it is always good to get home and know that you have made a difference.”

Police career info session, June 21, Wakatipu Rugby Club, Rec Ground, 5.30pm

louises@scene.co.nz