The final contenders to be the next Commissioner of Police have been interviewed for the job.
Mike Bush will step down from the top job in April after serving six years over two terms and the race to replace him has been whittled down to four, according to police sources.
Eight applicants were invited for a preliminary interview with the State Services Commission selection panel, including two former senior New Zealand police officers now working overseas.
Four contenders who made the cut had a second grilling in front of the SSC on the first Friday of December, a few days before the Whakaari/White Island eruption.
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The shortlist includes two Deputy Commissioners, John Tims and Mike Clement, acting Deputy Commissioner Andy Coster and Assistant Commissioner Sandra Venables.
If successful, Venables would be the first woman to have the top job.
Currently in charge of road policing and crime prevention strategies nationwide, Venables joined the police in 1994 and became just the second woman to be given a district command role when she took control of the Eastern District in 2014.
During her time in charge, Venables came under fire by local Napier MP Stuart Nash, ironically now the Minister of Police.
Unable to defend herself publicly, it was left to senior police to write to then Labour Party leader Andrew Little, now the Justice Minister, to stop Nash's repeated criticism.
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On receiving the recommendations of the SSC panel, Nash and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will have the final say on the crucial government appointment.
Coster, who joined the police in 1996, is the youngest of the remaining candidates and has an LLB (Hons) and a masters degree in public management.
Currently an acting Deputy Commissioner, Coster has frontline experience as the area commander for Auckland Central, followed by a shorter stint as the Southern District Commander, which covers Otago and Southland.
He was personally thanked by Police Minister Stuart Nash in Parliament during the final reading of the bill which banned semi-automatic firearms following the terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch.
Rounding out the top four remaining candidates are Deputy Commissioners John Tims and Mike Clement, who have this week led the police response to the volcanic eruption on Whakaari/White Island.
Tims joined the police in 1984 and spent most of his long career in Counties Manukau, particularly in the CIB, where he rose through the ranks to become the district commander.
To the public, Tims is probably best known as the detective in charge of investigating the murders of the Kahui twins in 2006.
Behind the scenes, Tims was instrumental in setting Te Pou Herenga Waka, the multi-agency centre in Manukau where police, social workers and health professionals work together to investigate, and care for, victims of sexual and physical abuse.
Tims has been the national operations commander for the police rescue efforts at Whakaari/White Island.
As the public face of the police during the first hours and days following the tragedy, Tims bore the brunt of public criticism, much of it unjustified, over the cautious approach to retrieving the bodies of those still missing on the island.
While Nash publicly backed the decision, as the risk of a further eruption while rescuers were on the island was too high, he did criticise how the police had been communicating.
During this impromptu media stand up, Nash announced Clement was being sent to Whakatane to take charge on the ground.
Widely considered by frontline staff to be the most operationally competent of the police executive, Clement has since fronted the media and the families of the dead in sometimes emotional meetings.
Clement, who graduated from the same wing of Police College with Bush in 1978, had been widely expected to retire next year.
But his decision to put his hat in the ring has led many staff to rank Clement as the frontrunner to take over from his wingmate.
Clement had a long career as a detective climbing the ranks in Christchurch, before taking a lead role in Operation Austin investigating historical sex crime allegations by women against police officers.
His "attention to detail" in Operation Austin was credited largely as the reason for the successful prosecutions of Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum on rape charges.
Clement went on to be the area commander for the Western Bay of Plenty, then a stint as the Auckland District Commander before his promotion to Deputy Commissioner in 2014.
This year, Clement has led the police response to firearms reform following the March 15 attacks including oversight of the buy-back of newly banned firearms, as well as the executive lead for 2021 Apec and the America's Cup.
All four - Clement, Coster, Tims and Venables - were interviewed by the State Services Commission on Friday, December 6, according to multiple police sources.
With only a few weeks until Christmas, the appointment of the new Police Commissioner is not expected to be announced until 2020.
The Commissioner of Police is responsible for keeping the peace, public safety, law enforcement, crime prevention, dealing with emergencies like the Christchurch earthquakes, or national security like the mosque shootings which claimed the lives of 51 innocent people.
These operational matters must be balanced with the "system role" of the Police; working with other government agencies to achieve strategic goals, such as improving justice for Māori, reducing family and sexual violence, as well as tackling organised crime.