Holding the line
Chris Cahill is back at the New Zealand Police Association’s board table for the third time – but now he’s at the helm as President.
The detective inspector from Auckland was elected at last month’s Conference. He was the pick of four candidates, two of whom are the current vice-presidents.
He’s been a vice-president himself, and post-election he was quick to acknowledge those men, Luke Shadbolt and Craig Tickelpenny, as they flanked him at the top table in the Conference meeting room. “I appreciate the support of the two VPs, and I know they will be my guides,” he said.
He hit the ground running after the election, speaking to media around the country and telling Conference delegates: “We’re going to have a lot of fun and we are going to do a lot for our members.”
Referring to the politicians who had spoken at the Conference pledging more police, he said: “We’ve got the promises and we must hold people to those promises.”
Just days into his presidency, he told Police News that there would be no let-up in the campaign for more police now that the bidding has started. “The important thing is to get any new staff in the right places and doing the right kind of work.”
That work was on the frontline and in investigations – two areas that were hurting right now, he said, because too many staff had been moved to Policing Excellence and Prevention First initiatives.
“Police is investing in leadership training, which I’m very supportive of, but you’ve got to have someone to lead.”
Chris Cahill joined Police in 1986, aged 20, a graduate of the George Jeffreys Recruit Wing 102. He was posted to Invercargill where he had been raised by his waterside dad and social worker mum. He was the youngest of their nine children.
He moved north to Te Kuiti in 1990 and then to Hawke’s Bay in 1994. It was there that he became involved in the Association, joining the committee and taking on an allowance dispute that was close to home.
Due to an oversight during the previous pay round, allowances for detectives returning to CIB duties after uniform secondments had been removed.
It was a significant amount and Chris went in to bat to get the error rectified, not only for himself, but for all the other detectives who would be out of pocket. His efforts evolved into a national CIB working group involving the Association and Police. The result was that the allowance was reinstated and, on top of that, an investigators’ incentive allowance was introduced.
By then, Chris was well established as an Association activist, becoming a pay adviser in three bargaining rounds and being elected chairman of the Hawke’s Bay committee.
In 2004, he had his first stint at the board table as Region 4 director, stepping down four years later when he transferred to Auckland in 2008. He wasn’t away long, however; when vice-president Richard Middleton resigned later that year, Chris put up his hand and was elected as a VP, a position he retained until 2011 when he resigned to take up a 12-month secondment with the Australian Federal Police in Canberra.
Embedded with the feds, he was there in an operational role gathering intel on organised crime and gang links between the two countries. Ultimately, the position was discontinued, but Chris is happy to say that during his time there was a successful bust of 400 kilograms of cocaine heading to Australia from South America via New Zealand and a joint action plan on gangs was established.
Back in Auckland in 2012, he brought his experience with organised crime to bear on the merger of the Auckland Metro Crime and Operation Squad into the OFCANZ group.
In 2013, he was promoted to detective inspector and took on the role of Auckland City District’s Field Crime manager, with responsibility for serious crime investigations across the district.
One of the biggest changes for policing in Auckland came in 2014 when the Crime Squad was reintroduced under Chris’s command. Resolutions for several high-profile cases followed, including finding the man who violently murdered homeless man Maqbool Hussain and bringing murderer and prison escapee Phillip Smith back to New Zealand from Brazil to face prosecution.
Chris said he was pleased he’d managed to pursue a police career to that level and still contribute to the Association in a variety of roles. Now, as President, he believed he would be able to give more to members and, in a wider context, to Police.
Key areas would be increasing member participation and diversity on committees and the board. “And when I say diversity, I mean diversity of opinions and perspectives, which is what gives us strength as an organisation. That includes non-sworn, who make up nearly 25 per cent of our membership.”
The first step would be finding out where the blockages to representation were and “selling the benefits of being involved”. “It’s really important that members believe they can make a difference and to know that their voices are being heard, through the committees, at National Office. Two-way feedback is vital.”
While law and order issues in general were important, he added, “We can’t lose focus on the fact that, first and foremost, it is our members we are here to represent. Their concerns and welfare have to be our first priority – and I mean all members, not just small pockets here and there.”