The Oath with Chuck Rosenberg
Mike Bush: Kia Ora
Chuck Rosenberg: Mike Bush, welcome to The Oath.
Mike Bush: Thank you, Chuck. It's an absolute pleasure to be here. It's good to catch up. It's wonderful to catch up. And if I may, Kia Ora.
Chuck Rosenberg: I know just a few words in Maori, and "kia ora" is about the limits of my knowledge. So, I apologize.
Mike Bush: No, that's fine. I'm--for your listeners that that means "Greetings, welcome, and thank you."
Chuck Rosenberg: Perfect, Mike, Perfect. Where did you grow up?
Mike Bush: I grew up around the country. My father worked for a public service organization. And like any good parent, he chased promotion to look after his family. So, I grew up, I was born in a town called Hamilton, moved to Wellington, moved back to Hamilton, and then to Rotorua. So, my school days were spent in those towns and cities.
Chuck Rosenberg: Tell us a bit more about your dad, if you don't mind.
Mike Bush: Yeah, so my dad, his name's Lloyd, my mom's name is Nelle. They are very middle-class New Zealanders. My dad works for a public service organization and their sort of financial accounting area. And you know, we were a very normal family. I've got a brother and sister. Everyone's still alive, everyone still well, in fact, in terms of longevity, I--my grandmother only passed away just over 18 months ago at the age of 104.
Chuck Rosenberg: Wow, that is a wonderful, long life, Mike.
Mike Bush: So, here's hoping.
Chuck Rosenberg: Here's hoping. Now, what did your mom do?
Mike Bush: She was a registered nurse. So, she split her time between looking after us three and my dad and working also. So, she was a shift-working nurse who, you know, absolutely did her bed and she carried on nursing until her mid 60s. She retired from that about just over 15 years ago. Yeah, so in the end, she was working in a hospice, caring for cancer patients, a tough job. But you know, one of those things that people do to try and make people's lives more comfortable. She dedicated her life to that and the family.
Chuck Rosenberg: Something that you and I have in common: my mom was a psychiatric nurse. And she said that raising my two sisters and me was wonderful training for that.
Mike Bush: Parenting, I think, is good training for most things.
Chuck Rosenberg: Very true. So, you referenced New Zealand, but tell us a little bit about your magnificently beautiful home country.
Mike Bush: Yes, we are regarded as a very clean and green country. Were a population of 4.7 million people. And, you know, I've been to a lot of countries around the world and New Zealand definitely stands out as being magnificent. And the north of the north of Ireland, we have some of the most beautiful beaches, some of the best fishing in the world. And in the South Island, we have mountains and rivers that I would describe as majestic. And that's why we're a real tourist destination. That doesn't mean we don't have our issues. You know, we're very determined to keep that clean, green image of our country. And there's a lot to do underneath that to ensure that that's sustainable. But yeah, it's it's a magnificent country, but we're at the bottom of the earth, obviously. And that's why New Zealanders just love to travel. You know, every, every young Kiwi New Zealander that grows up dreams of traveling the world. And we're one of the most traveled countries because of our isolation, I would say.
Chuck Rosenberg: You mentioned the North Island and the South Island, so the two main islands of New Zealand, but I learned in reading about your country, Mike, that there are 600 smaller island.
Mike Bush: One of the real tourist attractions of the Bay of Islands in the North--and unless you've been there, you just wouldn't believe how beautiful those beaches are, how blue and clear the sea is. And if you like fishing, either for game fish or King fish or snapper, you'll be in fisher person's heaven.
Chuck Rosenberg: Well, let me ask you, Mike, since neither your mother and your father was in law enforcement, what drew you to that line of work?
Mike Bush: A number of things. I think like everyone who goes into law enforcement, you're attracted to a vocation where you can actually make a difference, where you can really dedicate your life to making people safer, to helping people. And that's a wonderful thing. It's also a vocation where you never know what's coming next--that's exciting, that's challenging. How do I not spend the rest of my life in a role where I can do good things for others and be challenged and be totally interested in everything I had to do.
Chuck Rosenberg: Were there role models along the way, Mike, that pointed you in that direction?
Mike Bush: I had one uncle when I grew up, and I didn't really know him, who was a police officer, he was what you would call a "canine handler," or we just simply call a "dog handler" in New Zealand. You know, the stories that were told about him and his career, I think were one of the things that attracted me to that. And he's, he's still around, his name's Roger. He's had an interesting life. But yeah, he was the only real police officer I--I knew I did have a little bit of trouble with the law when I was an eight year old. My brother and I, and a friend of--a friend of mine got ourselves into a spot of bother. And one evening, the, the police car turned up in the driveway, and I've never been so fearful in all my life, but the interaction with that police officer, really, formed my view of police: understanding but authority figure. I'll never forget that day.
Chuck Rosenberg: What sort of "spot of bother," Mike, if you're inclined to share that?
Mike Bush: Yes, my, my friend and I and my brother found a little hole in the shop at what we call a stock cast stadium. So, we helped ourselves to some lollies, didn't really think we were doing any harm, but obviously we were, but never did that again--I can tell you.
Chuck Rosenberg: And how did the police officer handle it?
Mike Bush: Well, I can remember to this day how he stood there, sort of facing me, he made me stand and he made me explain my actions and then explained to me the consequences of those actions, and the consequences if I ever did that sort of thing again. But it was--it was the way he presented himself, as I say, as a, as an authoritative figure, but a kind, a kind person.
Chuck Rosenberg: Well, it must have had some impact, because at the age of 18, you started as a constable in the New Zealand police.
Mike Bush: Yes, I commenced my 12-month training, actually, as a 17-year-old. And I graduated as an 18-year-old, three months before my 19th birthday. So, I was a very young police officer. And it was quite daunting. Those, you know, first few days and weeks in uniform, out there in the public, and those expectations upon you. And you know, I wouldn't describe myself as an adult at that stage.
Chuck Rosenberg: Right, of course, but you suddenly have a very adult job and I imagine, often during the day, alone, in your job.
Mike Bush: Yes, my first few days of duty were with a constable by the name of Joe Kelly Hannah, one of the nicest, most capable police officers you could ever work with and hope to have. So, he mentored me for quite some time, but on day three of my first duties, I think he was sick, so I was expected to go out on my own and I remember, sort of poking my nose out of the police station door knowing that I had to go out on my own, still as an 18-year-old, to serve the community. And yeah, again, one of those days you never forget when the responsibilities on your shoulders.
Chuck Rosenberg: And that first duty station was in a place called the Bay of Plenty.
Mike Bush: Yeah, Rotorua was the town. The Bay of Plenty, central North Island, it's quite a famous place for tourists, for geysers, hot pools, beautiful attractions, volcanoes, lakes, forestry, it's a world-renowned mountain biking location.
Chuck Rosenberg: Now, let me ask you, Mike, before you start as a constable with the New Zealand police, you take an oath, and I was fascinated to see that you are swearing faithful and diligent service to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second of New Zealand.
Mike Bush: That's right. So, we're part of the Commonwealth and through our Governor General, we, under the reign of Queen Elizabeth out of the United Kingdom, of course. Like Canada, we are part of the Commonwealth.
Chuck Rosenberg: Right and so your oath is to the Queen, but of course your service is to the nation.
Mike Bush: To the people.
Chuck Rosenberg: And if you could explain for our listeners, Mike, you are a parliamentary form of government in New Zealand, and so, the queen of New Zealand, Queen Elizabeth the Second, is the head of state but not the head of government.
Mike Bush: That's right. The role of the Queen, the governor, general is that oversight but we are governed by Parliament, by Prime Minister, and Cabinet. And funnily enough, that's the department I work for at the moment.
Chuck Rosenberg: Do you remember taking the oath, Mike, when you first joined?
Mike Bush: I do. We took it as a very large group at our graduation. We started off I think as 81, and there were 79 of us that graduated.
Chuck Rosenberg: And you mentioned that you were 18 when you graduated, so you must have been one of the younger new officers in your class.
Mike Bush: Yes, there was half a dozen others, I think, that weren't quite 19. We were the first graduating, what we call, police cadet wing to go out and allowed to have officers that weren't yet 19 sworn in as full constables. So, a little bit of history there. Up until that point, you had to be 19 years of age before you were sworn in as a full constable, so...
Chuck Rosenberg: When you left the New Zealand police 40 years later, you left as the commissioner, you ran the New Zealand police. And I certainly want to talk about your service as Commissioner, but first, can you just tell us a little bit about the New Zealand police? Obviously, the National Police Force of New Zealand--the analogy here would be to the FBI.
Mike Bush: So yes, 42 years, I served in the New Zealand police. I retired in April of this year. We are a National Police Service, we would be a combination of a city, state, and national police. So, we do all of the policing services within the country. So, we do the frontline patrolling, we do all the investigation, we actually do the prosecution, we do all the functions of law enforcement, we don't have state and federal laws, so we don't have a requirement for state and federal police. So, that's the beauty of being one agency. We're currently 13,000 strong, soon to be 14,000 strong. And one of the other differences that you'll see is that we are a routinely unarmed Police Service. Of course, all of our frontline staff have access to firearms, but we don't carry firearms on our person unless there is a particular reason to do so. Most other police departments find that very unusual. I suppose the closest to that would be the Metropolitan Police in London, who are also routinely unarmed police service.
Chuck Rosenberg: Has that always been the case with the New Zealand police, that you have been an unarmed service?
Mike Bush: Yes, we became a civil police organization in 1886. So, we went from a military style police to a civil police in that year, and of course, we've always been trained in and had access to firearms, but our entire history we've been routinely unarmed Police Service.
Chuck Rosenberg: Is that a contentious issue among the men and women of the New Zealand police?
Mike Bush: It's a contentious issue for our police staff. It's a contentious issue for the public. I think the majority of the public--and I often, they are often surveyed--do actually prefer it that way. And it's really important, I think, at some point, we'll discuss how we can only police with the consent of the community because police are part of the community. So, that's really important that we are a police service who serves in a fashion that works for the public. You know, when I speak to my colleagues in other parts of the world, they find it very unusual that this is the way we operate.
Chuck Rosenberg: I was struck by the fact that you used to be called the New Zealand Police Force. And many years ago, long before you joined, the word "force" was dropped from the name.
Mike Bush: That's right. So we are the New Zealand Police or the New Zealand Police Service, so we understand our role is to serve the public, were there for them, to serve them in a way that works for them. It really does go back to those--what everyone in law enforcement knows is the Peelian principles of policing. So, Robert Peel, back in the early 1800s developed those. And they're a guide as to how all police organizations should serve. I think that you could say they're as relevant today as they were in the 1820s, 1830s. I actually think they're more relevant now, that Sir Robert Peel had a lot of foresight.
Chuck Rosenberg: Now, speak a little bit more, if you will, about how you're organized, I know that you will soon be 14,000 strong in terms of personnel. My understanding is that the New Zealand Police are divided up among 12 different districts, spread over a very large geographical area to protect and serve about 5 million people.
Mike Bush: Absolutely right, Chuck, 12 policing districts, so there are 12 district commanders that are geographically separated. But we all operate under one operating model, so we have a consistent form of practice. Whilst those commanders are absolutely trusted to police, they must understand the different requirements of their communities and deploy to that. We all do it in a consistent framework.
Chuck Rosenberg: Nevertheless, given the amount of territory that the New Zealand police covers, I imagine it's a rather decentralized model, with certain central principles that govern it.
Mike Bush: Yes, that's a good way to describe it. You know, you've, you must trust your commanders, but at the same time, you must give them a framework to work to the principles, you referred to, Chuck. It's really important that we're all on the same page, and that we're not all inventing different operating models or different ways of doing business. Some things are absolutely consistent across the organization, but the other expectation is when you have a geographic area, the demands on your police service might be different. Your role as a commander is to understand those demands and needs of your community, and deploy your people and everything else you have to meet and stay ahead of those demands.
Chuck Rosenberg: And Mike, how long did you serve as a constable before you promoted or transferred?
Mike Bush: So, I did two and a half years as a uniformed patrol officer, beat officer, team policing officer. And then, I was very much attracted to detective work. So, I applied and trained as a detective. And then, I transferred from the Bay of Plenty and at the age of 21, to the big metropolis of Auckland, which was quite daunting, but something I would never change--really exciting work, really challenging, and very fulfilling.
Chuck Rosenberg: And what made it fulfilling and exciting and challenging?
Mike Bush: As you grow up as a young person, you know, you'll read about serious crime, major crime, and how the New Zealand police detectives or whatever city or country you belong to, how they solved and resolved these mysterious, very serious crimes that impacted on a lot of people. And to understand how that all worked, and how that was all applied, was a fascinating learning. And then, to actually get involved in those inquiries, whether they were homicides or other serious crime or pursuing organized crime groups, really challenging, really interesting work with a great bunch of people, awesome mentors in terms of that work. And I did that for probably three quarters of my career.
Chuck Rosenberg: Who was a mentor to you?
Mike Bush: Some of those very early bosses, Detective bosses, what great mentors, and they really had a passion for investigations. They were just so committed to ensuring that people who did very bad things were brought to justice. So, technically very proficient, but one of the things that stood out to me was how positive and dedicated and committed they were to that course.
Chuck Rosenberg: You're fortunate in New Zealand. Not only is it a beautiful place, but it's a relatively safe, low crime environment in which you live and work. But you've had some extraordinarily serious and occasionally violent cases that you've worked on. One that comes to mind was the kidnapping of a five-year-old girl for ransom, a little girl named shinchon ma.
Mike Bush: That's right, in early 2008, and in Auckland, I was the chief detective for a district. And this dear, poor, young five-year-old was out playing with his seven-year-old cousin on the street. And at some point, the seven-year-old ran inside to say chinchin has just been taken. And that seven-year-old described how a person dressed fully in black with a black mask had driven up in a car and grabbed changin and thrown her into the boot of the vehicle and then driven off. The interesting thing was that seven-year old's account of what occurred was spot on. But of course, this sort of crime was very unusual in Auckland, not just in that neighborhood, but actually in New Zealand. So, we dedicated a really large resource to that. We worked on that 24/7 for five days until we found her and arrested the offender. And the, you know, the family obviously, beside themselves. It was a kidnap for ransom, a ransom was received that evening for a quarter of a million dollars. And one of the very interesting aspects of that is that the offender had almost no relation to the family and believed that they would have the money. He needed the money, knew a little bit about them, targeted them, took the five-year-old, and kept her in a cupboard in an empty house, not his house, an empty house, as I say, in a wardrobe, taped up for those five days. And our staff who found her in there, I would say, it's the most memorable and rewarding day of their police careers and affect everyone who worked on that inquiry to find her. She was in a state, as you can imagine, to save, I would say, everyone on that team saved children's life. I think that the offender would have probably just left her to die if he hadn't received the ransom, which we were in the process of managing. So yeah, one of those things, again, that will always stay with you because as a detective, you often turn up after the act, you turn up to a homicide with someone who's deceased. And the commitment of everyone on that inquiry to find that little girl, and bring her back to her family, alive and safe. Yeah, one of the--probably the most rewarding things we could ever do. And one of the reasons that 13-14,000 people are members of the New Zealand police, and are members of law enforcement around the world. That's why we come to work.
Chuck Rosenberg: What was the break in that case? How did you find her? Because remarkably, she was only several 100 meters from her home, from the yard from which she was taken when you found her?
Mike Bush: Yeah, yeah. So, technology, again, the challenging thing was there was virtually no relationship between the offender and the family. And even though he wasn't a practiced criminal, he was very good at covering his tracks. He communicated by a burner phone, which he only turned on to contact gentians father, and then he would turn it off. Without going into too much detail, technology and local inquiries solved that case, that it required, you know, dedication of hundreds of staff over those five days. And we had to actually fly in technology from Australia from our partners over there in the Australian Federal Police, because it wasn't technology that we had at the time, using our local communication providers to help. Local staff, local knowledge, and some very good surveillance techniques.
Chuck Rosenberg: I imagine it was a very emotional moment when she was found and found alive and brought back to her family.
Mike Bush: That's right, as part of the surveillance, we identified an address where she may have been, and it's where she was found. So, I deployed some staff into that address, not knowing what we would find, and I'm waiting on the end of the radio for them to communicate back to me as to whether or not she was there. And you know, I've got hundreds of staff waiting outside the command room waiting for the same message that I'm waiting for. And it took a while to come. So, I ended up ringing the commander of that unit to say, "okay, what's happened?" And in a very broken voice, he said, "we've got her. She's alive." And I've said, "That's awesome." I said, "Why? Why didn't you ring me immediately?" And he said, "I was too emotional. I couldn't talk." And, you know, that was--that's a wonderful thing. You know, police officers really care. And I thought I was quite staunch, so as soon as I hung up the phone, I, I went out to tell the, tell the team, but I had to stop myself because I think I'd become a little emotional as well. So, I just had to catch my breath before I went out there and communicated the news to the rest of the team.
Chuck Rosenberg: It's a wonderful story. And it had a happy ending. There's another case that I wanted to ask you about that didn't have a happy ending. A young woman named Marie Jamieson, who disappeared in 2001, was found nine days later, she had been raped and murdered. But the way the New Zealand police approached that case, and their perseverance and their diligence, and their professionalism is an amazing story. I was hoping you might share it with us.
Mike Bush: Sure, again, a really tragic crime, a young woman murdered in such a brutal way and left that way. Again, the reason that everyone in law enforcement comes to work is to prevent those things from happening. But if they do, it's about identifying who did that, so there's justice for the victims and the families, but also to ensure that sort of thing never happens again. The officers that worked on that inquiry never gave up and when I became the Chief detective in that district, got together with them, those senior detectives, and thought, well, you know, with forensic advance, DNA technology advance, there's still an opportunity to resolve this crime. So again, those detectives, and everyone else and forensic officers dedicated themselves to that task. And through familial DNA, a large piece of work commenced, which identified a number of possible suspects. So again, through good investigation techniques, good surveillance techniques, covert techniques, we were able to identify exactly who had carried out that murder. And yeah, as you say, nine years later, that person was brought to justice. Detectives never give up, no case has ever closed.
Chuck Rosenberg: I'm wondering if what I read about this case was true, because if it is, it's unusual break that the DNA that you recovered from Marie Jamieson's body match DNA on a salami that had been shoplifted from a grocery store. Is that accurate?
Mike Bush: That's absolutely right. And the person had stolen that salami was related to the person who had committed this crime. So, you'll know, Chuck, from your experience that knows developments and DNA technology, if they don't tell you who that DNA belongs to, they can tell you that it belongs to someone who was related to this person that you have on your database. So, from that simple offense, we were able to solve that crime. And it's one of the reasons why police officers collect DNA samples from the criminal fraternity. There's been wonderful resolutions in your country done very much the same way and in the UK, right around the world. So, now forensic offices who continually develop new techniques, helping us solve very serious crime.
Chuck Rosenberg: It's good that you have those capabilities when you need it. It's also good that New Zealand has a very low incidence of violent crime.
Mike Bush: Yes, we're also--we are seen as a very safe country. But you know, it does worry me that you scratch the surface, and we do have quite a bit of criminal offending homicide rate, and 4.7 million people, anywhere between 60 and 80 homicides a year. That's far too many. And there are things in New Zealand that do concern us: we have, we have one of the highest rates of youth suicide in the Western world, we have high rates of child abuse. So, there's plenty for us to do to get in front of that, working right across the social system, working with all of our other organizations, whether they be in government or outside of government to get, to get in front of that stuff. So, whilst we have that reputation, and there's plenty that we need to focus on.
Chuck Rosenberg: I certainly want to talk to you about that, because I know you developed and implemented a prevention first system for the New Zealand police, which I found extraordinary. Before I get to that, I wanted you to talk a bit, Mike, if you would, about your work as a liaison officer. The New Zealand police has officers in other parts of the world, and for a time, you were in Bangkok on behalf of the New Zealand police. What was that like?
Mike Bush: Probably the--one of the most enjoyable parts of my career, living in Southeast Asia is a wonderful experience. Working with international law enforcement, again, is, is just such an interesting thing to do and an absolute pleasure to work with law enforcement colleagues from around the world. Some of your old colleagues, chuck: police officers, FBI offices, from every part of the world, gather in big cities so that we can, on behalf of our countries, address the crime that impacts on all of us. So, our main focus was on organized crime, on pedophilia, sex offending, gathering intelligence around national security issues, sharing that intelligence, and working with local law enforcement to identify those people ensure that justice was done.
Chuck Rosenberg: As circumstance would have it, you happened to be in Thailand on December 26th, 2004. A series of massive tsunami waves from an earthquake offshore struck a number of countries in that part of the world, including Thailand. And as I understand it, you were the first New Zealand official in Phuket, in Thailand, following that tsunami. The waves grew to more than 100 feet--and this is an astonishing number, Mike--killed more than 220,000 people in 14 different countries.
Mike Bush: Yes, the morning of the 26th of December, 2004, I was at home with my wife and young child in Bangkok. When the building shook--I think we were on the 10th floor--and the people of Bangkok are not used to earthquakes, but it was significant and it happened off Indonesia and traveled right across Southeast Asia. No damage really in Bangkok. So, we got on the car and being Boxing Day, we went to a nearby beach. We were there for about two hours with friends. When my phone rang, was someone at the New Zealand embassy in Bangkok saying "turn on CNN is there's been a tsunami in Phuket." I did. CNN were reporting several casualties in Phuket being a massive tourist destination. An hour later, the phone rang again, it was the embassy saying "can you get to Bangkok airport?" The government flying officials from the embassies down to Phuket to help them. So most of our New Zealand embassy staff were out of town on holiday. So, on behalf of the embassy, I traveled down there as the New Zealand official to help and lend whatever help we could to New Zealanders and everyone else that was affected. Again, believing that only a few people perished at the hands of this disaster. We were briefed on the ground by Thai officials and said, "Look, people affected by this tsunami are going to come in and you're going to help them." I opened the doors and literally thousands of people descended upon us, I'd lost the kids, that lost their parents, that lost their relatives, that lost their friends. And it was only then that we appreciated the magnitude. Now, in Phuket and Kalaloch, which was nearby, I think about five and a half thousand people died. So, the area lost over 200,000. As I say, Phuket and Kalaloch lost about five and a half thousand people. So for the next few days, I traveled around that area trying to find out what was happening with those people and where they were and what we would do in terms of repatriation identification. And it became very obvious very quickly, that something needed to be done in terms of what we call a disaster victim identification process. So, I appealed to the Thai government. In fact, I got myself an audience with the Minister of Interior on about day three, to say, look, the way this is being managed--I have some helpful ideas. This is the way it's managed in other countries, it's led by law enforcement, its proper process, Interpol will have a big part, could we approach this differently? And the Minister of Interior in his command cadre said, "Look, demand said 'okay,'" and turned to my Royal Thai police colleagues and said, "right, we want you to lead that." And they asked me to assist them. So, over those first few weeks, we established the disaster victim identification process. I think there were 22 countries, including New Zealand, who flew experienced teams into Phuket and Kalaloch. And over that year, we were able to identify and repatriate nearly 5000 of those five and a half thousand people to ensure that loved ones got their loved ones back. And to me, it was just the right thing to do, but it took some organization, in fact, it was a massive operation. Countries from every part of the globe contributed to that and worked so well with the Royal Thai police authorities who led that process. But in those first few days, I traveled around the island, as I say, and I got to see probably all of those 5000 people because the custom in Thailand is to recover those bodies and take them to the nearest temple. And I would go to a temple and I would count 600 people that had perished, children, adults, and then travel to the next temple and see them. And that's when it really hit me that we had to do the right thing by these people. Whether they were local or whether they were tourists, they needed to be identified and given back to their family and loved ones. So, to be on the ground and to kick that off was something I'm quite proud of. And I did it with my Australian, my Israeli, my French colleagues, law enforcement from all around the world, but spearheaded by the Royal Thai police hierarchy. As a cop, maybe you get used to seeing tragedies, but a tragedy on that scale, the size of that catastrophe: more than 200,000 dead and 5000 in the area in which you were working. It must take an emotional toll, too. It does, it's when it's good to have your colleagues and friends around, so you're experiencing the same thing. I think that's where police officers really do support each other. We deal with the grief together. But what keeps you sane is knowing you're doing the right thing.
Chuck Rosenberg: And 33 years after you were first sworn in as a brand-new police officer, a new constable, and sign to the Bay of Plenty, you became the Deputy Commissioner for Operations for the entire New Zealand police, a job that required tremendous organizational skill and tremendous management.
Mike Bush: I did not aspire to be the leader of an organization from a young age, I think like 90 percent, 95 percent of people, they just want to do a good job, you want to be a good Constable, you want to be a good detective, then you go through the ranks, you just want to be a good boss, but you never think, even entertain the thought of being the leader of a large organization and having so much responsibility. To be the Deputy Commissioner Operations was a real privilege and honor. In that role, you're responsible for 80 percent of the organization, so I was responsible for every one of those 12 police districts, and all of the operational support in the organization, and you report direct to the commissioner. And, you know, challenging times--we, I was also leading a major transformation program for the police, our organization at the time. So, it was, it was a busy, busy three years. But again, a very fulfilling one, because the thing that attracts you to the police is what they do. And it kept me very much connected to what the frontline were doing inside the organization, the great work that everyone inside the police does every day and every night, I often say to them, the public admire you, they adore you, they appreciate you. And they only know probably 20 percent of what you do on their behalf. If the public really knew the sacrifices, the commitment, and the courage their police officers, and New Zealand and all around the world actually do on their behalf, they would be in awe, so to stay connected to the people who are really doing the business of policing--great opportunity.
Chuck Rosenberg: But isn't there a danger as you move up in an organization that you become more and more removed from the work that the police do on a daily basis?
Mike Bush: It's a danger that you have to manage. My view on leadership is that in order to lead people, you must understand their operating environment, what they're faced with every day, every night, what their challenges are, their entire working context, and that you cannot make decisions on their behalf, unless you really know that. So, as a leader, I make sure I stay very close to the frontline, very connected, very visible, but to understand what they're doing and what they need because your job as the boss is to, you know, set the direction that they need to go in and then enable them to deliver on it. And you can't do that if you're removed.
Chuck Rosenberg: And speaking of the boss, after three years as Deputy Commissioner, you became the Commissioner of the New Zealand Police, the leader of that organization, and did that for the last six years of your career.
Mike Bush: Two three-year terms, Chuck, again, an absolute honor and a privilege and nothing that I would have ever envisaged as an 18-year-old police officer.
Chuck Rosenberg: Mike, one of the things that you worked on, even before you became the Commissioner of the New Zealand Police, was something that you called "prevention first," and I found it absolutely fascinating. And I was hoping you would describe it.
Mike Bush: Sure. So, I'll try and make this a short story because there is a very long story that goes with us, but when I was a district commander in a district called counties Monaco, which was quite a challenging crime-wise district, had the highest crime rate. But it was a wonderful community, very diverse, which made it a beautiful place, but it had its prime challenges. The new government had said that they will put 300 more staff, 300 more frontline police officers into that district, which they really needed. My bosses, the commissioner and the deputy at the time, said to me, "Mike, I don't want you to do business the way you've always done business. I want you to develop a new operating model for police and if it works there, will--you know, we might roll it out across the country." So, not knowing a lot about the subject, I put a team together, went out and spoke to all of the troops, and spent a lot of time designing and implementing a new operating model. Now we went back--I mentioned the Peelian Police Principles and our oath to really go back to the fundamentals, the foundations of policing. Our oath is that we keep the peace and we prevent offenses against the peace. If you listen to Sir Robert Peel, which you should, is that the role of police is to prevent harm and crime, as opposed to the visible presence of fighting crime. So, your number one raison d'etre is to prevent, of course, you can't prevent everything. So, we designed an operating model that was very much about putting prevention at the front of what we do, and people, particularly victims of the heart. Now, this is a 180 degree turn from policing as I knew it. Policing, for me, as I grew up in the organization, was very much about tuning up afterwards, it was about investigating and resolving after things that occurred, which is very exciting, and it's very necessary. But if we all come to work to make a difference, what does that difference look like? It's about doing whatever you can to prevent crime and harm to people before it occurs. But if it does occur, to respond in the very best possible way. So, that's how we developed the prevention first operating model with people, particularly victims at the center of everything we did. I would describe a 180 from the response model that I grew up with, and an offender focus that I grew up with, those two things are all very good, but they shouldn't be the starting point. So, it was about turning our policing on its head, again, as I described it, as a 180 turn. Now, to get the whole organization on board with that was a long journey, because again, that made people feel uncomfortable, it wasn't what they grew up with. There were a lot of people who just understood it and bought it, and bought into it and executed it straight off. A lot of other people took a while to come on board. My advice is any change journey, you don't do it over a year or two, it'll take you a good four or five years to really move an organization. But it makes a difference. It's in the results. It's about driving crime down and increasing trust and confidence, the two most important things for police.
Chuck Rosenberg: But cultural change is extraordinarily hard. I agree with you that it takes at least four or five years, but you do have some portion, as you said, who grew up under a very different model. And don't like you or don't like it or figure they'll wait you out, Mike, until the next Commissioner comes along. And you have to think about bringing those on board too: not just the people who like you and your idea, but the people who dislike you and dislike your idea.
Mike Bush: That's right, you've got to understand that that's probably a large component of the organization. Hopefully, it's not the majority. But you've got to do everything you can to bring everyone on that journey. It did help that, you know, I'd been a frontline police officer for most of my career. So, you do bring a policing credibility with you. But it's also ensuring that every party or leadership cadre, really role model, that new direction of policing, and that it is brought into every component of the organization. And it's also about making sure your communications are good. So, one thing we got wrong as the way we talked about it, people thought we were talking about prevention only. We're not every aspect of policing is important. And I talk about prevention, responding, investigating, and resolving the message we should have said right at the start was, let's get the order right. Everything's important. So, we've got our communications to the frontline, a little bit distilled. And we had to correct that. So, particularly detectives were going "Yeah, well, my job is investigating. So where am I on this? Am I irrelevant now?" My message to them was, "absolutely not. You're a massive part of this." So, if you're involved in organized crime, you're keeping drugs off the street, and you're putting serious gangsters in jail, that will make a difference. And if you're investigating serious crime, do it quickly in terms of urgency, and focus on the people who are going to repeat. So, you are very much part of prevention. But again, it's getting the communications absolutely right to the right audience. And that's a big journey. You have at least two audiences: you have that internal audience, right, the men and women who work for the New Zealand police, some who embrace change, and some who resist it, but you also have to communicate externally, to the community, to the people you serve. How did you do that? Very good point, Chuck, because it's really important that people understand More than understand that people agree with the way the police operate, because again, we can only police with their consent. So they've got to buy into this. That makes--it really resonates with the public that we want to get in front of things. We want to prevent them from being victims in the first place. But if we don't, we want to provide the best possible police service to them. We want to represent them, we want to be a diverse organization, our values must support this kind of policing. You know, we brought in new values: empathy, which is very much about being a caring and compassionate police. And we brought on valuing diversity because we're a diverse country, we've got to look like other people we serve. But also, we've got to value what diversity brings to an organization: the different perspectives that come into a conversation and a decision will mean you have better decisions, and that's valuing diversity. So, all of these things contributed to what I think was a long, but successful transformation of the way we policed. Going back to the public point, yes, there were naysayers who were saying, "Are you just going soft?" because we went putting everyone before the court who may have committed a minor offense. And there's three good reasons for that--you know, particularly with first time offenders, you want to give them a chance, but like I had when I was an eight-year-old--you don't want to automatically put them on that justice cycle where they end up in jail. If you can intervene with a young person, do something different, and send them on a different path, that's why you come to work. And other things of a similar vein. So you had to counter some of the narrative which said, I, you've gone a bit soft on people. My view is you target your resource at the people that are doing the most harm. And if you can prevent, particularly young people about of getting into that justice cycle, then do everything you can to do that. Use your own skills, use your own experience, or use your partner agencies to intervene with people to try and get them on another path. And that was very much part of prevention.
Chuck Rosenberg: My understanding is that New Zealanders have a very positive view of the New Zealand police. I'm curious, did this help you recruit? Did it help you build a more diverse workforce? Did it help you make the New Zealand police look more like the communities that you serve?
Mike Bush: Yeah, that's why we brought in that value of valuing diversity. We weren't a diverse enough organization, there weren't enough women in the organization, there weren't enough people from different ethnicities, orientations, backgrounds. So, we had a real positive campaign to bring diversity into the organization. And when you're coming off, I would say, a majority of people who look like me, it takes a while to turn that ship around. So, you've got to be very deliberate and purposeful about it. So we did and unapologetically set targets for diversity. And it's been really successful, but it's still quite a long journey. But an organization must reflect the people they serve, they must see them and us.
Chuck Rosenberg: And New Zealand is actually quite a diverse country. There is a large indigenous population of people in New Zealand, Polynesian roots, and they are a big part of life and community in New Zealand.
Mike Bush: Yes. I mean, I think the world is getting far more diverse, but New Zealand's a great example of a diverse community. Our indigenous people, our Maori people, we have a treaty with them, they are our partners, our partners in governance. The treaty says that we participate together, we lead together, and we must honor that treaty. We also have large Polynesian communities from the neighboring Pacific countries. And we attract people because it's a great country from all around the world. And from a policing perspective, we've got to ensure that we're there for everyone who either lives here or visits here. We've got to understand what their diversity brings, but it also means we've got to understand different cultures and police respectively, and police inclusively. So we've got to be an inclusive organization, but very inclusive of our communities. And, you know, you've got to develop the skills for that. You've got to ensure that that our people know that is a massive priority.
Chuck Rosenberg: If you want to build a more diverse New Zealand police culture, how do you recruit in communities that have been underserved or under represented?
Mike Bush: If I go back to the 300 extra staff that we recruited inside the county's Monaco police, which is the most I've ever community in New Zealand, the first thing we agreed upon was we were going to do it locally, we were going to recruit people from that community. So, we actually set up a recruitment locally--we do other wonderful things where we partner with high schools deliberately to target different ethnicities that are represented at that school--because even though we've got higher levels of trust and confidence in this country, there are parts of the community that don't trust police as much. Our Maori community died, our Polynesian community don't trust us as much as other parts of the community, so we've got to build that trust. And you only do that by fronting up and participating and being really visible. So, we started a program--or some of our staff, our great staff--started a program where they convinced the education system that a high school qualification would include setting police entry tests. So, we went into those schools and developed that course. There were young people there going, "Wow, we didn't really like the police, but now we know who you are, we want to be part of your organization." So, you've got to be purposeful, it's got to be on the ground, it's got to use the skills and the relationships that your people have. So, it was police officers themselves going in and recruiting and building that relationship and that credibility in that trust in those communities.
Chuck Rosenberg: Now, you were Commissioner for six years. Did the prevention first model, in your mind, take hold? Has it become part of the New Zealand police even though you're no longer there?
Mike Bush: Absolutely. And when I left the police, the Minister of police said to the--those that were wanting to fill that role in the application for police commissioner, "you must continue with the current strategy and direction as set by the former commissioner, because that's what's going to make a difference." The current Commissioner Andy Coster will continue in that direction, and we'll take it to the next level.
Chuck Rosenberg: Is he somebody who worked for you?
Mike Bush: Yes, yes, through the ranks. And he was an inspector, working for me in my first district command. In fact, he helped us develop the model, some of us thinking helped with the model. So you know, I've seen Andy through his career,
Chuck Rosenberg: Toward the end of your tenure as Commissioner in 2019, you had a horrific terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand. I was hoping you would talk a little bit about that. A white supremacist killed 51 people in two different mosques. I don't think New Zealand, or New Zealanders had ever seen anything quite like it.
Mike Bush: Now, that's another day I will never forget the tragedy, the trauma that those victims went through. Before I speak anymore on this, Chuck, I just have to preface the fact that there is a Royal Commission of Inquiry into that event, or what led up to that event. So, I can really only talk to what's in the public domain as that occurred. And I can't talk about anything leading up to that.
Chuck Rosenberg: Of course.
Mike Bush: But, you know, I'll say again, we all come to work to ensure those things never happen, but when they do, and I couldn't be more proud of the police staff who responded and the emergency services staff who was so courageous and so capable, that responded immediately to that and took that person into custody. But on the day, when I took the call from the district commander and Christchurch to say this was occurring, I then immediately set up our national command, which was a few floors below me. So, that only took minutes to set up. And within those first minutes, I was told that the offender was live streaming his actions that, will stay us forever: what occurred, what he did to those innocent people who were going about the prayer: adults, children, family members--we should all ensure that that never occurs again.
Chuck Rosenberg: And I understand you're limited in what you can talk about, and I respect that, but it must just be horrific as police officers, but also as citizens, as human beings, to see that sort of toll on members of the Muslim community in New Zealand as a cop, but also as a father and as a New Zealander. How do you respond to something like that? It has to be incredibly painful.
Mike Bush: It was. I mean, you feel the grief of every one of those people. 51 people died on that day. 75 people were seriously injured. So, on an international scale, that was a very, very serious event. It's great that it's been through the courts. And it's resolved from that point of view, so it's brought some closure to those victims, but painful for everyone involved, particularly the people that were there dealing with the victims as they were injured. But again, I've got to take my hat off to those people who, who responded: police officers, ambulance staff, first aid staff, members of the community, only one person passed of those 75, so the medical treatment of people at the Christchurch hospital, what they did, and saving those lives was wonderful, and they should be acknowledged to.
Chuck Rosenberg: That's an incredible part of the story. I didn't know that, Mike, I know your prime minister described it as one of New Zealand's darkest days. I was also struck by the fact that the shooter, the terrorist, received a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. And that was the first such sentence, if I'm understanding it correctly, ever imposed in New Zealand.
Mike Bush: That's right. And when I talk about bringing closure for the victims, I think that was a really important step for them to know that that person will not see the light of day.
Chuck Rosenberg: A sentence of life without parole is more typical in the United States. I didn't know that he was the first, and only ever, to receive such a sentence in New Zealand--seems fitting.
Mike Bush: Yes, I mean, I can say it now--I can't, I can't say it as police commissioner, because we never comment on the decisions of the judiciary--but now that I'm not the police commissioner, I can say it was, I think that sentence was received by the entire country as absolutely appropriate.
Chuck Rosenberg: Now that you're not the police commissioner, do you miss the work?
Mike Bush: I miss the people, absolutely. Members of the New Zealand Police Service, whether they're sworn staff or non-sworn, they're just magnificent. They're commitment to their communities is brilliant. And I know that's replicated all around the world. You know, there's a real responsibility on police wherever they are in the world to do the right thing by their communities. And I know everyone in New Zealand does their absolute best to do that. And that's why we all come to work. But you know, as police bosses, we've got to make sure that our people stay focused on that and stay focused on doing the right thing by their communities. We're there for them. We're there to serve them. We're not there to do it to them, where they had to work for them.
Chuck Rosenberg: I was glad to see, Mike in your last year of service as the commissioner, that you receive the New Zealand Order of Merit. Can you talk a bit about that? I know you probably don't like talking about rewards that you got, but this is rather extraordinary.
Mike Bush: Yes, it is a sign up to serve your community, but it's a real honor and a privilege to be acknowledged publicly by the queen, the Governor General, for your service to the community. So, it was a real pleasure to go only a few weeks ago, actually, to Government House to receive that award, and that you do it--and I did say this at the time--you do it on behalf of everyone on the police service because as a boss, you're nobody without your people.
Chuck Rosenberg: Well, they were lucky to have you and more than four decades of your integrity and your service to the people of New Zealand. And I'm really glad that in my law enforcement career, I had the chance, albeit briefly, to work with you.
Mike Bush: It was absolute pleasure to know you chuck and it's great to be able to catch up. And it's great to hear some of your other podcasts with our other colleagues who you know, we came to together as Five Eyes partners, again to try and keep our countries, but also the globe safe from threats. You know, your dedication and with our colleagues, really deserves acknowledgement, Chuck, so it's great to be able to catch up.
Chuck Rosenberg: Well, you're kind and I appreciate your spending some time with me and with our listeners and telling them a little bit about the New Zealand police and your magnificent country. And if I have it right, tena kwe, "thank you."
Mike Bush: Awesome. You have it right. Tena kwe and tena koutou to all the listeners. That means "greetings to everyone."
Chuck Rosenberg: Well, thank you, Mike, and thank you for spending some time with us.
Mike Bush: Wonderful, Chuck. Take care.