A Dunedin cop is calling time on a more than 20-year career, which initially failed to launch due to some monkey business.
Kaikorai Valley Community Constable and The Star columnist Paul Kennedy ended a 23-year police career last week to focus on managing his rental property portfolio in Dunedin and spend more time with his family.
Born and raised in Dunedin, he had wanted to start his police career in his hometown.
But his career launch stalled, after some antics as a student ended in his arrest.
He scaled The Body Shop in George St in a bid to topple “Gus the gorilla” – a massive polystyrene ape on top of the store – as part of an Orientation prank.
Police arrived and a chase ensued.
“I got arrested in a construction site where the new Dunedin Police Station was being built – it was probably the first arrest at that station,” he joked.
The arrest – despite getting a discharge without conviction – was a “black mark” which caused him to be overlooked when recruits were being selected to start their police careers in Dunedin.
But new police recruits were needed in Auckland, so he headed north to get a start.
“I was there for about three years but I always wanted to return south.”
When a position became available in Gore he took it.
After a stint in Gore, he took unpaid leave to live in England but returned to Dunedin in 2001 to be with his father, who had terminal cancer.
Home again, he worked as a frontline cop from the North Dunedin station.
The nature of the work made him consider leaving the police.
“I attended a cluster of suicides and cot deaths and they started to sit with me a bit more than they used to . . . In my 20s I could go to a cot death and be at my sports practice an hour later without it affecting me but as you get older you lose your emotional resilience, especially when you have kids – that destroys it.”
His met his wife – “my ginger princess” – Detective Margo Kennedy, when he was deployed to Auckland for the America’s Cup in 2003.
The couple have three children under the age of 6, including 2-year-old twins.
Despite being emotionally drained, he stayed with the police and attended counselling sessions.
A counsellor asked if he had considered a shift from frontline duties to community policing.
He took a job at the Kaikorai Valley Police Station in 2010.
“Of the 10 suburbs in my patch, I’ve always had a soft spot for Brockville – where I spent most of my time . . . There are so many good people in Brockville.”
Rewarding parts of the job ranged from getting a child removed from a dysfunctional home to catching a rapist, hours after he committed a violent crime.
He recommended a career in police.
“It’s a hell of a ride – a lots of ups and downs, huge life experiences and lots of fun.”