After 53 years, a police veteran calls it a day

By Sian Dilworth

When 19-year-old Fletcher Clague-Christian joined the police in 1957, movie tickets were the equivalent of 15c, Elvis was shocking and police carried truncheons, not Tasers.

Much has changed in his 53 years of working for the police, and at age 72 he has retired because of health problems.

Mr Clague-Christian says his father's pressure influenced him to join the police, but he was excited at the thought of it.

He is a direct descendant of the Fletcher Christian who led the mutiny on board the Bounty in 1789 and has a strong family heritage linked to Pitcairn Island.

Mr Clague-Christian worked for about nine years in New Zealand before applying to work as a peacekeeper in Limassol, Cyprus, in 1965.

Cyprus then faced daily violence between the Greek and Turkish communities.

North Shore police communications manager Kevin Loughlin said a rigid selection process to go to Cyprus meant only a handful got chosen.

Mr Clague-Christian said his 18 months in Cyprus were one of the most memorable times of his career.

"It was our job to keep the peace between the Greeks and Turks. I saw quite a bit of violence."

During the posting, he met and married his wife. Seven other New Zealand policemen in the same posting also married in Cyprus.

After returning to New Zealand in 1966, he became a sergeant in South Auckland.

"I learned a lot; it is very hands-on. You learn how to cope with various matters and situations." His advice to young police officers was to accept where you are stationed and go with the flow.

"South Auckland is the best training ground. There shouldn't be any trepidation about being posted to South Auckland."

Mr Clague-Christian has seen many changes during his years in the police and thinks some are for the better.

"Nowadays there are more women in the police, which I think is all for the good. There is also much more scrutiny than when I started."

Mr Loughlin said Mr Clague-Christian had been involved in several prominent homicides and had played an important role in several investigations.

"Everyone's aware of who Fletcher is. He is often asked for advice and has shared similar experiences to many. History repeats itself."

Mr Clague-Christian said one of the highlights of his career was when a man he had once arrested contacted him and asked him to meet his fiancee.

"He wanted me to know that he had changed and turned his life around."

For the past 15 or so years Mr Clague-Christian has been the property officer at the North Shore Policing Centre.

Inspector Les Paterson, North Shore area commander, describes Mr Clague-Christian as the "oldest statesman" around.

"Fletcher would have been around when constables got typewriter and bicycle allowances.

"Back in those days you walked up and down your area and dealt with things asthey came up. There was no calling for back-up."

A retirement farewell ceremony was held for Mr Clague-Christian by members and colleagues at the North Shore PolicingCentre.

"Even the hardest men still find it extremely difficult to leave the police," said Mr Paterson. "Policing was that man's life."

- NZ Herald

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