PM's minder now barista


Stewart Brodie hasn't always been the humble barista he is today.

A year ago he was a key member of the elite Diplomatic Protection Squad (DPS) protecting the Prime Minister and foreign dignitaries.

Now owner of the Streetwise Coffee cart on Hastings' Heretaunga St West with his wife Nikki, he was a member of the police force for 18 years - the last 10 in the DPS.

Mr Brodie, 49, said the biggest challenges of the DPS role were the hours involved.

"Operationally, it's not uncommon to do 18-hour days. You're dealing with everyone from leaders of governments, their assistants, embassies and even the police hierarchies in the district when you're trying to arrange staff."

The DPS role wasn't limited exclusively to protecting the PM - who receives 24-hour protection - but also the Governor-General and all VIPs who come to New Zealand.

Before joining the DPS, Mr Brodie worked at the Police College in Porirua as an instructor.

He said his interest in the DPS stemmed from meeting members of the elite unit when they came to the college for firearms training courses.

Born in Gisborne and raised in Wellington's Hutt Valley, Mr Brodie joined the police at age 30.

His time at the Police College was spent as a firearms instructor and teaching what was then called Staff Tactical Options Training - involving handcuffing, working with batons and pepper spray.

"My background came from the army - 17 years in the Territorials."

Prior to joining the police he had enlisted as an engineer with the Territorials and was deployed to East Timor for six months during his final year at the Police College.

"I ended up in an intel role because there was a number of us that were deployed in that group that were police, so they took all the police from the different corps who were territorials and put them into one group and we worked in a forwards intelligence role."

Mr Brodie said the move to the Bay was part of a lifestyle change, his wife and three now adult children had grown up with him always being in the police and being away.

"There is a lot of hours spent away from home and from your family.

"The diplomatic protection [squad] has a huge issue with the amount of leave owing, because of the amount of hours that they work.

"But it's really difficult for them to take it, because the numbers [of staff] aren't that huge, so you're always required to work, or being called back to work."

He said he had always liked Hawke's Bay and had a lot of family and friends in the region.

"My very first sergeant has a vineyard up here, so we spent a lot of time coming up here - helping out when he was starting up the vineyard as an extra pair of hands labouring."

Mr Brodie said after 10 years in the DPS it was time for a break. However, he still keeps an iron in the fire doing fill-in firearms training in the Eastern and Central police district.

"Because of all the qualifications I hold in training, it's easy for me to step back into that role - it's just a bit of work here and there when they're short staffed."

The bean trade came easy.

"I've always been a coffee drinker. You pay good money for coffee: It's a luxury item and anyone who likes their coffee knows that they'll travel quite a long way to get a good coffee."

Sometimes he got bored - it was tough on a quiet afternoon - but the change was a lifestyle one, he said.

"The whole idea was just to slow down the pace of life for a little bit. There are certainly elements that I miss, there's no doubt about that, it is a pretty exciting life. Having the ability to travel around the world with the prime minister is pretty cool and meet world leaders."

He said the most interesting person he ever looked after was the Dalai Lama, due to his unique position and the background of Tibet.

Mr Brodie said he got to know Mr Key and his family well during the time he spent with them both in New Zealand and while travelling and brushed off criticisms that the DPS were used excessively by the Prime Minister.

"It's easy to criticise ... but you have to take into account that he is a VIP in this country. He's flying commercial airlines so there's a plane full of Kiwis and not everyone's a John Key supporter."

He said he worked nine to 10 Waitangi Days, which he described as "interesting ... there's always protests, there always has been".

For security reasons he couldn't talk about any direct threats to the Prime Minister, but said travelling to Papua New Guinea with Helen Clark and Libya with Phil Goff were some of the more dangerous assignments he had been on.

The majority of domestic threats came from the mentally unstable members of society who "had to be kept aware of", he said.

While he didn't know exactly where he was headed next, "getting policing out of your blood is a pretty tough thing", he said.

"You'll never get a bunch of cops sitting around that won't start talking about jobs they've done, where they've been, who they've locked up, who they might have upset. From extremely interesting and funny things that might have happened in the police, through to obviously really serious and sad things that happen in there and you don't know waking up in the morning what you're day's going to involve - whereas today I do.

"Every day I come to work I know what my day's going to entail, and that's sometimes quite nice as well.

"I don't have to worry about whether I'm going to get involved in something that's either going to affect me mentally or physically, I just come to work and chat and make coffee."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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