Superintendent Mike Clement can see the irony of his appointment as the new top cop in Auckland City. Because eight years ago he investigated the man who once sat in the same office. In February 2004, Louise Nicholas publicly accused Assistant Commissioner Clint Rickards of rape and Clement was drafted in as senior detective to help lead the criminal inquiry.
"I remember it well," he says of the Waitangi Day phone call he received about Operation Austin. "It was another defining moment in the New Zealand Police."
He was told the inquiry would take about eight weeks. What followed was nearly 100,000 hours of investigation, much of which Clement controlled on a day-to-day basis and which led to a number of police officers being convicted of rape. Rickards was acquitted but never regained control of Auckland police.
"Operation Austin was unlike anything we had ever done before. It was complex. Long and incredibly thorough. So in that sense, it made me incredibly proud to be a police officer, apart from the cloud hanging over the organisation," says Clement.
"It was certainly unique. District Commander Rickards was sitting in this office at the time the allegations were made. The irony of me sitting in the same chair is not lost on me."
Meet Mike Clement. He's less than three weeks into his new job, one of seven district commanders appointed since Commissioner Peter Marshall took over. The new faces were promoted, in part, to help speed up the police "culture" change required by the Bazley Report, also part of the fallout from Operation Austin.
"We are still under scrutiny and rightly so, but I think we have built trust and confidence in our community. I don't expect every officer to live in shame as a result, but it's good to reflect and say: 'we were there once and we don't want to go back'."
Born and bred in Mayfield (near Ashburton, population 205), 18-year-old Clement joined the police as a cadet at the Trentham Training College in 1978. On graduation he was posted to Christchurch, at a time when the drinking age was 20. So the young Clement could not drink in the bars he was patrolling.
"In those days, pubs were very different to today. You were mixing it toe-to-toe, quite literally, back in the day."
He spent the next 26 years in Christchurch, most of that time as a detective in the CIB with a particular focus on battling organised crime.
One of the cases that sticks in his mind was the discovery of arguably New Zealand's first meth lab in the mid-1990s, set up by the Road Knights motorcycle gang. What was found changed the criminal landscape of New Zealand forever.
"We would hear about methamphetamine but it hadn't arrived on our shores yet. You know it's coming. You read about it and know it will eventually get to New Zealand. And what we found was [on] a reasonable scale and you start to appreciate the complexities of investigating meth and its impact on the community, in particular the safety side of things. It was more the realisation meth was here ... The rest is history."
Clement climbed the ranks to Detective Senior Sergeant in Christchurch, then shifted to Wellington for the "eight-week" secondment on Operation Austin. By 2005, he was still in the capital and promoted to Detective Inspector in charge of the recently formed Crime Monitoring Centre.
When pressed on the exact nature of the role, Clement was coy. "Without wanting to give too much away, the community knows the police intercepts the private conversation of people who need their conversations listened to. The technology was available overseas and we brought it here, which was a huge step forward and brought us into the digital age."
Previously, there was no central headquarters from where police could listen to bugged phone calls and text messages. So the new technology played a crucial role in assisting covert investigations into drug syndicates and the like.
Then in 2007, Clement again shifted north, to become the area commander for Western Bay of Plenty, based in Tauranga.
After 20 years dressed in the suit and tie of a detective, the switch came to a surprise to his wife and family - they had never seen him in uniform.
By nature of the job, detectives need to be low key. As commander, Clement was suddenly the public face of the police: responsible for the CIB, general duties and traffic.
"The big step for me was the high expectations of the community. It's a different persona, you have to be more open and engaging. There's a lot of people in community doing great stuff and they want to know the police are interested. And that's the way it should be."
One of the more harrowing tests during his time in Tauranga was the ferocious slaying of Ravneet Sangha, 32, and her daughter Anna, just 2, in June 2010.
Deepak Nagpal is serving a 20-year prison sentence for the double murders, in which he stabbed Mrs Sangha more than 100 times after she asked the boarder in their Otumoetai home to move out. The toddler ran from the laundry with her mother's blood on her shoes but was carried back by Nagpal, who stabbed her in the face, neck and throat and put her in the washing machine with his bloodied clothing.
"The house on Ngatai Rd where that happened is right next to schools. Kids - including my daughter - would go past and say 'that's the murder house'. The way in which the victims were killed... you think how can a human do that to another," says Clement.
"And it had a huge impact on the staff who worked on that investigation. But once again, we had incredible community support."
Yet again, Clement has shifted north, while his wife and daughters, aged 11 and 14, stay in Tauranga until their house his sold.
The new Auckland City commander took the helm on January 31 and is boarding with friends in Freemans Bay until his family joins him.
He has never lived or worked in the city but is coming to grips with the post and busy setting fresh goals for his 900 staff.
New commissioner Peter Marshall is driving a different style of policing, called Prevention First, in which prevention of crime is paramount. It is about concepts such as second chances for low-level offenders and neighbourhood policing teams, who get alongside communities, identify why the crime is happening, then try to do something abut it. Nationwide, the short-term goal is a 13 per cent reduction in crime by 2014/15.
Clement has set some more immediate goals for Auckland of a 7 per cent reduction in property crime, such as burglaries from homes and cars, by the end of the year. The community has a big part to play around that, but Auckland police are going to prioritise property crime. Burglary is an incredibly invasive crime. If it was your home, you'd put every available resource into solving the crime. That's what the public expect. And that's what we're going to do."
These are lofty aspirations from the 52-year-old, but not as courageous as this public statement: "I'll be supporting the Blues against the Crusaders now [in the Super 15 match last night]. You wouldn't find too many Cantabrians willing to admit that."