Among the many messages of congratulations to Andy Coster was a note reminding the newly-minted Police Commissioner of the time he left the force to pursue a different path.
Back in 1998, as a young constable in the Counties Manukau CIB, Coster attended a murder trial in the High Court and was struck by the masterful way the Crown prosecutor weaved together gritty evidence with skilful oratory for the jury to understand.
Over the next six years, Coster crammed in enough study in his spare time to earn a Bachelor of Laws (with Honours) and was admitted to the bar.
His first job? To work for Kieran Raftery and Aaron Perkins, the prosecutor who inspired his career change. New recruits to the Crown were sent to Perkins and Raftery, two of the best in the business, for a stint in the musty Crown rooms upstairs in the old part of the High Court at Auckland.
The work isn't glamorous; doing the grunt work, researching cases and writing submissions for sentencing hearings, perhaps the odd appearance in court for a bail hearing.
Coster was a little different to most of the young prosecutors who came through, most of whom were only a few years out of law school.
They're all clever and hardworking, but Coster was a little bit older with some life experience behind him as a police officer, and salesman straight out of school before that.
Bright and personable, able to communicate ideas clearly, Coster also possessed that intangible quality which is invaluable in the often adversarial world of the courtroom; he had a presence about him.
In no doubt his latest protege had the skills and work ethic for a long, successful career in the law, Perkins was taken aback when Coster - after just a year at the Crown - quit to return to the police force.
"I was a wee bit surprised. Police officers who become lawyers tend to stay, but he broke the mould. Serving as a police officer is in Andy's blood, and he realised that," says Perkins, who has since been promoted to the senior echelons of the profession with Raftery as Queen's Counsel.
"Kieran and I flicked him an email when he got the top job to say, 'You made the right decision.' He'll be tested though. Sometimes in those jobs, you can't please everybody."
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Coster's ascent to the top job has certainly been a baptism of fire, coming a few days into the Covid-19 lockdown which kept New Zealanders largely confined to their homes for weeks on end.
On top of the pressure of stepping up as the new (freshly shaved) face of the police, Coster also bore the brunt of criticism of iwi-led roadblocks, questions over the legality of the lockdown, concerns over new "police state" powers, as well as barely veiled accusations of kowtowing to political influence.
Coster shrugs it off.
"We are a step removed from politics with our own independence, so we have to find our own way in terms of how we go about operational business. I've found that pretty seamless," Coster told the Weekend Herald.
"Inevitably the focus is on what is the right way to police, to ensure we maintain the buy-in of the community for what we're doing, particularly when we're talking about something that is unprecedented in terms of police powers.
"We understand that, so that's why we've stepped very carefully before we get to enforcement."
It's the sort of thoughtful, measured response those who've worked with Coster have come to expect, and believe it will keep him in good stead on the dark days which every Commissioner of Police will face.
From early on in his police career, Coster has been earmarked for greater things as a "blue flamer", as police refer to colleagues whose careers have a meteoric rise.
After leaving the Crown, it wasn't long before he took the reins as the inspector responsible for Auckland Central, as well as a stint in the Armed Offenders Squad
After five years running the smallest but most densely populated policing area in the country - and with all the alcohol-related problems linked to Auckland's nightlife downtown - Coster went in the other direction.
Promoted to Superintendent, he took the reins of the Southern Police District covering Otago, Southland and Invercargill. It is the largest police district geographically but with the smallest population.
It was a return home of sorts for Coster, who grew up in Auckland but was born in Dunedin.
The 44-year-old believes spending time in the city and countryside, chalk and cheese in terms of policing, rounded out his frontline experience before heading to Police National Headquarters in September 2015.
He was an Assistant Commissioner now, a member of the police executive under Commissioner Mike Bush, although the following year was seconded to the Justice Ministry on an 18-month project to modernise the court system.
Perhaps symbolic of the bureaucratic red tape, that work is still ongoing now, although it gave Coster an opportunity to see how Wellington works from inside the halls of power.
No one would be surprised if Coster, whom everyone describes as an intellectual, goes on in a senior public servant role once his time as Police Commissioner is up.
He enjoyed his time at the ministry and it was not a foregone conclusion he would return to PNHQ. When he did come back in July 2018, it was as an acting Deputy Commissioner, filling in for another member of the executive on secondment, until his appointment as the Commissioner this year.
Despite his impressive CV, many were surprised Coster got the job over Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement, a 42-year-old veteran who was widely considered the frontrunner.
Like Coster, Clement is a man of integrity but did not suffer fools or those who failed to meet his high expectations.
He was a polarising figure and there's a school of thought that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who's of a similar age to Coster, wanted a Commissioner who could bring people together.
In announcing Coster's appointment, Ardern said: "I know he'll lead a team of 13,000 people across the country with positivity, inclusion and integrity."
When asked what good leadership looks like, Coster pauses momentarily. Traditionally speaking, a leader is the technical expert, he explains, the person whose knowledge and experience best qualifies them in their field.
"Your role, please excuse the pun, is to direct traffic," says Coster. "You do this, this is how you do it. The pressure of knowing everything would fall to the leader.
"But in a more complex environment, the role of a leader is to enable staff to be their best. To work with people, have conversations to help them realise their potential. It's quite a different skill set."
The New Zealand Police has a strong culture, aspects of which are necessary for dealing with the toughest of situations on a daily basis.
But Coster, a married father-of-three, says the police can no longer afford to have a working environment which suits only people from certain backgrounds, or view of the world.
"We have to make it possible for diversity of thought to be expressed in the organisation, we have to make it a safe environment where everyone's input is valued," says Coster.
"It takes a bit of courage to challenge the status quo. We need to do things differently now."
His words are music to the ears of Chris Cahill, the head of the Police Association, who penned a column calling for a more inclusive culture around the same time Coster started sharing his vision internally.
"We need an environment where more people are listened to, their opinions are taken into account and become part of the decision-making process," says Cahill, "rather than a constant top-down approach."
When it comes to police strategy, Cahill and Coster also seem to be on the same page.
Rolled out under former Commissioners Peter Marshall and Mike Bush, the Prevention First strategy - where police efforts are concentrated on stopping crime, rather than responding - was at the forefront of all decision-making.
The philosophy will stay in place, although Coster has signalled a slight recalibration of Prevention First to focus on the initiatives the police know make the biggest difference.
Raised in a wealthy family and a pupil of the prestigious private school King's College, Coster has never forgotten some of the desperate families he met in impoverished neighbourhoods as a 21-year-old officer fresh out of Police College.
"We see the acute needs that exist across society in all sorts of different areas: youth, mental health, family harm. And the tendency is for us to want to find solutions for those challenges," says Coster.
"We do have a role to play in prevention in all of those areas. But we also recognise that there are others who are better positioned to engage in some of those social issues, so we should partner with them to make a difference."
It's an acknowledgement of the strain the strategy put on frontline police for years, before the promised intake of 1800 new staff under the current government.
Coupled with this, Coster has signalled a back-to-basics approach to focus on crimes, such as burglary or car thefts, which affects a large proportion of the population.
"When you are burgled, it's very invasive. It's important we get it right because it's a core service the public rightfully expects us to do," says Coster.
In Cahill's experience, solving crimes such as burglary fell by the wayside as staff and resourcing were prioritised in other areas.
"We were spread too thin, trying to do too much. The extra staff we've got now helped, but we probably needed those when Prevention First came in the first place," he says.
"There's some awesome stuff in the prevention space, don't get me wrong. But some of it needs to be challenged.
"How do you deal with something that can literally take generations to change, when you've still got all the victims of crime that need a response? It's about getting the balance right, and I'm not sure we've got the balance right yet."
And the balancing act will fall to Coster. He not only has to juggle the competing internal interests for resources, but also the expectations of frontline staff and the reality of working within political and bureaucratic constraints.
"There's always going to be a disconnect between someone working at that high level, developing strategy and someone on the frontline dealing with what's in front of them. As long as they can each understand where the other is coming from, it will work," says Cahill.
"But the police also have to be engaged in Wellington with the politicians and the bureaucracy. It looks nothing like frontline policing but if we don't have a good relationship, the frontline will suffer.
"At times there will be a clash. The biggest mistake a leader can make is to please everybody. You can only put your hand on heart and say 'I believe this is the best decision for the police'."