Sergeant Phil Kahotea wanted to walk the beat in Auckland, Taupo or Wellington when he graduated from police college as a new recruit.
Instead, as a fresh-faced 21-year-old he was sent to Whangarei and, 35 years later, he is still enforcing the law in Northland.
On Wednesday, Mr Kahotea's dedication to the thin blue line was acknowledged when he was presented with his 35-year long service and good conduct ribbon and clasp.
"It was a real honour to receive the clasp from Police Commissioner Mike Bush," Mr Kahotea said.
"I always wanted to be a police officer and policing has been my life. I wanted to help the community."
Since joining the force, he has also become the longest serving dog handler in the Northland police, with 26 years at the end of a leash.
He was so keen to get into the blue uniform that as a youngster he worked at the Papakura police station, washing and cleaning patrol vehicles. When he approached the recruiting officer, he was turned away as he had only school certificate woodwork. But steely determination saw him return to night school and pass English and maths, which enabled him to be sworn in as a constable at Auckland Central before entering police college.
After three months' training, he joined seven other new recruits in Whangarei. After a year on the beat, he became part of the police team flown around New Zealand during the Springboks rugby tour in 1981. He remembers spending the whole night on Athletic Park in the wind and rain, just in case protesters invaded the field before the next day's scheduled match.
"It was a bit of an eyeopener, we had all sorts of things thrown at us."
As well as policing frontline in Whangarei, Mr Kahotea was the sole officer in Ruawai for five years. "I loved it. It was my own little community."
He said his first callout was to the theft of kumara from a roadside stall. He managed to chase down the fleeing vehicle and sent the driver back to put the money in the honesty box.
It was Mr Kahotea's goal to join the police dog handling unit and, in December 1990, he hit the beat with dog Radar. Together the combination caught criminals for seven years and proved they were the best canine team in the country, winning the police dog champs in 1993 and fishing in the top three at three other nationals. Since then, Mr Kahotea has had six other operational dogs, plus a specialist drug and money detector dog.