Gourami. Maktoum. Epopeus. Notus. Inca. Archer. Summer.

A random assortment of words that mean much more than you'd think.

Each is the name given to a major police investigation - murder, drugs, road policing, fraud.

Whenever police launch such an investigation, it's given an operation name.

Advertisement

Operation Gourami is the investigation into the murder of British tourist Grace Millane.

It is also the name of a freshwater fish.

Maktoum is for 21-year-old Rima Sikei who was fatally stabbed at Mt Roskill.

The Epopeus team are working on the homicide investigation following the death of Shannon Shelby Baker, 55 in Sandringham.

Incidentally, epopeus means all-seer in Greek.

Summer is a targeted operation across the wider Auckland area focusing on identifying crime trends and hotspot areas over the busy summer season and proactively trying prevent incidents.

So how do police decide what each investigation will be called?

Over the years there have been a number of methods used to label operations.

Currently, a random name generator churns out a name from the ether and police assign it to the case.

The generator has been specifically designed for naming police investigations.

This is why the operation names never seem to have anything to do with the actual subject of the crime.

Years ago, things were much simpler - for example the investigation into the murder of Ashburton teenager Kirsty Bentley was simply called Operation Kirsty.

In the past police have also used the name of the road that a crime was committed on, like Operation Hamilton, which investigated the murder of Augustine Borrell in Herne Bay in September 2007.

And sometimes, a little humorous licence has been used.

In 2000 an operation targeting underworld figures manufacturing methamphetamine was dubbed "Operation Flower" - because officers nicknamed the hardened crims behind the offending Daisy, Tulip and Pansy.

In 2009 the Herald revealed that criminal investigations in Auckland were codenamed after shades of paint on the Resene colour chart.

The idea behind that was to ensure the names were generic and did not cause offence to anyone.

Examples include Operation Anakiwa - a shade of blue - in which police laid charges against Glenn Mills, 40, who allegedly deliberately infected sexual partners with HIV.

Glenn Mills was charged with infecting three men - aged 17, 24 and 26 - with HIV and attempting to infect a fourth. NZ Herald photograph
Glenn Mills was charged with infecting three men - aged 17, 24 and 26 - with HIV and attempting to infect a fourth. NZ Herald photograph

Operation Beryl, in which police investigate an alleged international car theft ring, is a hue of green.

At the time Detective Inspector Scott Beard told the Herald that the colour list came into effect in late 2008 after senior police officers noted there was "a bit of risk" in some operation code names.

"In years gone past, there have been operation names that have been silly," said Beard.

"As a management team, we saw the risks there.

"There can be no criticism [of the colour chart]. You can't get to court and the lawyer asks, 'Where did that name come from?"'

He would not be drawn on the cases that were raised as concerns.

Operation Epopeus police outside the scene of the homicide. New Zealand Herald photograph by Leon Menzies
Operation Epopeus police outside the scene of the homicide. New Zealand Herald photograph by Leon Menzies
Grave of Chris Arepa Kahui and Cru Omeka Kahui. The investigation into the death was dubbed Operation Nirvana. NZ Herald photograph
Grave of Chris Arepa Kahui and Cru Omeka Kahui. The investigation into the death was dubbed Operation Nirvana. NZ Herald photograph

- the murder and sexual assault of Auckland woman Claire Hills

- the investigation into the murders of Olivia Hope and Ben Smart by Scott Watson

- the murder of Carmen Thomas

- the murder of West Auckland gang figure Connor Morris

- a covert investigation targeting a criminal syndicate allegedly making and selling thousands of Ecstasy pills every week. About $14 million worth of assets were seized yesterday in raids.

- a series of armed police raids in response to the discovery of an alleged paramilitary training camp in the Urewera mountains

- the murder of Wellington woman Lois Tolley