by Robert Rattenbury
This book recounts the private life and the career history of a policeman in New Zealand in the 1970s through to 1992. This period was quite turbulent for the police in New Zealand, with the Vietnam War protests, the Springbok tour, the rise of patched gangs, and several Royal tours.
It was also a time of progressive change for the Police, with the abolition of the cadet system, the increase in the numbers of women police, the vast increase in drug offending, and the formation of the Armed Offenders Squad.
The author gives a personal account of these changes from the viewpoint of a policeman at the heart of the events. He was also involved with the early days of the Police Complaints Authority (now known as the Independent Police Complaints Authority), and was also a member of the Armed Offenders Squad, initially as a member, then as a commander, and also as a trainer.
“So You Want to be a Cop…” also recounts his personal life from childhood with a violent alcoholic father, his earliest school days, through police training, to marriage, and later, his struggles with depression leading to his resignation from the police and taking up a position as a case manager with the ACC, dealing with traumatic brain injury clients.
There are numerous accounts of incidents and criminals the author was involved with, some humorous, some serious, and some just plain scary.
It is clear from reading this book that policing has changed just as society has changed and the way police handled some situations would not be tolerated today.
What shines through is the sheer humanity of the front-line police, the lifelong friends made and lost, and the comradeship that develops between men and women when faced with danger. It is a mostly serious book, but there are many light-hearted accounts of incidents, which lift the tone of the story.
I came from a similar background to the author and, also having lived through the events that shaped the author’s life, find it easy to empathise with him.
I can recommend this book as it gives an insight into a past age of policing and of New Zealand society.
There are issues of spelling, formatting, and language that irritated. In particular the use of “Xmas”, the constant use of capitalising words when not necessary, the small gutter making the latter pages hard to read. There are places where text is poorly justified, random blank paragraphs are inserted, and a general lack of careful proof reading. However, do not let these issues put you of from reading the book, as it is easy to look beyond these to the real story that is told.