42 years in police and he still loves the job

By Doug Laing

2 comments
Police Hawke's Bay area youth services co-ordinator Sergeant Ross Stewart. Photo / Doug Laing
Police Hawke's Bay area youth services co-ordinator Sergeant Ross Stewart. Photo / Doug Laing

In the ideal world, long-serving Hastings policeman and 2016 Queen's Birthday Honours ONZM recipient Ross Stewart would have done himself out of a job years ago.

Overwhelmed by even being nominated, in recognition for his service to the police and youth, the 61-year-old - whose 42 years in the New Zealand Police included calling the first Family Group Conference - says reducing criminal offending to zero is the ultimate goal of working with the young.

But while it hasn't been achieved, he still loves the job and there have been a lot of successes, most recently the Alternative Action Programme which, run with Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga in Hastings, is credited with huge reductions in recidivism and Youth Court appearances.

Mr Stewart began specialising in police youth service in 1984, and staged the Family Group Conference when he was working on the Kapiti Coast.

It was held in a house in Paraparaumu.

"He wasn't overly sold on it," he conceded. "But I was amazed with what came out of it, just me, the social worker and the kid's family, at his home."

The conference was ahead of the introduction of the legislation, which was more about restorative justice than retributive justice, with the opportunity for working on "reasons" for offending rather than dismissing the factors as "excuses", and ultimately turning people "around" and helping create a safer society.

With such things as the 1981 Springbok Tour mayhem and the 1984 Queen St riot in Auckland behind him, he'd "fallen" into something he loved. "I've enjoyed it ever since." And he's not looking at moving on any time soon.

He's developed and delivered joint-services training with police and Child, Youth and Family social workers at a national level, and among initiatives was involved with Hip Hop Cops, an interactive project between police and youth.

He's worked on projects with the Hastings District Council, been involved with Birthright, the Akina Activity Centre, the U-Turn Trust and the Village Baptist Church, and has been a member of the Karamu High School Board of Trustees.

"I was really gobsmacked," he said in describing the day he opened the mail which revealed the honour.

"This is not about me," he said. "Behind it is a very supportive wife and family who have made a lot of sacrifices and never moaned when I'm being called back to work. Not once.

"A large part is due to the youth aid staff, youth projects staff and the others I have worked with, without whose dedication and willingness to do a lot of hard work this would not have happened."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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