The good thing about police farewells is that they tend to loosen lips, giving real meaning to what the force likes to describe as better work stories.

The trick is to sort those that are suitable for public consumption from those that are not, and to learn to interpret the glare that means what was just said should not leave the venue.

The farewell for former Kaitaia O/C Senior Sergeant Geoff Ryan and his wife, Detective Paula Drewery, who are returning to Taranaki, did not disappoint. Although the evening featured only one glare — from Paula — who had set the ground rules for media coverage long before she said anything.

"I love this place. It will always hold a special place in my heart."

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Obviously believing that honesty is the best policy, former detective sergeant Trevor Beatson confessed that he had not welcomed either of the new arrivals in 2009.

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Geoff had got the job that he thought he'd had in the bag, while neither he nor Detective Sergeant Mark Robertson had wanted Paula.

"I got the short straw," he said.

First impressions had not lasted though. Geoff had proved to be very professional and very likeable, to the point where Trevor had taught him to catch fish with soft bait and showed him some of his diving spots. Paula, on the other hand, had begun trying to kill him. Slowly.

Reputedly the maker of the world's best carrot cake, she had arrived every day with something he couldn't resist. And he ate it.

"Since I got away from her I've lost 40kg," he said, "and my blood pressure's normal."
On a more formal note, Detective Sergeant Mark Dalzell thanked both for what they had given to the station, the community and its people, and particularly acknowledged the work Paula had done with victims, which went "above and beyond".

Detective Eddie Evans also described them as very generous, to the point where they had given a weekend to help stocktake at The Warehouse to raise funds for his rugby team.
"The kids have asked me to thank you," he said.

Dog handler Sergeant Bruce McLeod, who had known both Geoff and Paula for many years, in Paula's case since she was a "ginger recruit," told a story involving a dog that had difficulty telling the cop from the robber, and which literally scarred Paula for life when she set up a roadblock in her pyjamas.

Meanwhile Geoff had actually been considering leaving the police for a new adventure when he heard that the Kaitaia job was going.

He subsequently dragged Paula, "kicking and screaming," to the Far North for three, maybe five years. They were there for nine.

Now he did not have the words to express his appreciation for the friendships he had made in the Far North.

"I love this place. It will always hold a special place in my heart," he said.

Shona Hobson had taken him under her wing, and drawn up a list of people he had to meet, beginning a process that had resulted in significant personal growth and the acquisition of many new skills that he would be taking back to Taranaki.

He also paid tribute to Dion Hobson, who had died unexpectedly a few weeks earlier, with whom he had worked closely, latterly as part of Whiria te Muka, the police/iwi collaboration aimed at reducing family violence.

"How quickly life changes," he said.

"Losing Dion teaches us that we should live every moment we have, and savour every minute."

Having agreed, finally, that he was rambling, he made way for Paula, who said that despite her initial reservations she had fallen in love with "the place, the people and the lifestyle".

She had seen ways of policing that she had never seen before, which had generally been a positive experience, and she had even become used to being referred to as the boss' wife.
"Thank you, Geoff, for bringing me here," she concluded.

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Geoff Ryan, who joined the police force 34 years ago, will be working in Taranaki as a prevention manager, the same role he had before he moved to Kaitaia. Paula, who has 21 years in the force, 17 of them in the CIB, will be working as a family harm and youth services co-ordinator.

Special memories

Geoff Ryan and Paula Drewery received a number of gifts at their police farewell, including a broomstick for her and ear plugs for him.

Geoff will also be returning to Taranaki this week with a framed photo of himself and Dion Hobson, one of Dion's ties and a Ngai Takoto T-shirt.

The gifts were presented by Dion's daughter Shaylah, in acknowledgement of the close professional and personal relationship her father had had with Geoff.

The photo was signed, she said, but it was a forgery, and a very good one. That was a skill she had learned as a schoolgirl, when her father had been too busy to write a note to her teacher, and gave her his blessing to do it herself.