Hang up handcuffs, time to pull pints

From police to pub . . . Senior Constable Helen Fincham-Putter is excited to be taking over Stanley's Hotel at Macraes Flat next month. PHOTO: ELLA STOKES

Middlemarch’s rural police officer will soon go from serving the community to serving behind a hotel bar.

Senior Constable Helen Fincham-Putter, who once smashed then-prime minister Jenny Shipley’s car windscreen, has been the Strath Taieri police officer for the past 14 years.

Tomorrow will be her last day on the job before she takes over as publican of historic Stanley’s Hotel at Macraes Flat.

Sen Const Fincham-Putter said there was no particular reason behind her decision to leave the police.

“It’s just time for me to go.”

The 50-year-old grew up in North Canterbury and started her police training in 1996.

After completing her training at Porirua, she was posted to Timaru.

“There was a lot going on in Timaru during that time . . . and I saw all of it,” she said.

During her five years in Timaru, she relieved for police in rural areas of South Canterbury.

“I found I quite liked rural policing, as you got to know people,” she said.

She wanted to apply for a rural role but didn’t have enough traffic experience.

For the next year she worked as a highway patrol officer in the Mackenzie Country.

“I actually wrote out squillions of tickets.”

In 2004, she transferred to Middlemarch.

Her extensive policing skills and previous hospitality experience will stand her in good stead as she runs the hotel from June 1.

Sen Const Fincham-Putter will move from Middlemarch to Macraes Flat, where her husband Le-Roux works full-time at Macraes Mine.

Their daughter Jackie (6) will attend Macraes Moonlight School.

Sen Const Fincham-Putter will take over Stanley’s Hotel from previous lessees Annie Murphy and daughter Claire Sisterson, who have been at the hotel since 2016.

Ms Murphy said they had bought Brew Cafe and Bar in Dunedin .

“We saw the opportunity come up and thought it would be a good next step.”

Ms Murphy said she and Ms Sisterson had enjoyed running the pub and getting to know the community.

Sen Const Fincham-Putter said over her years of rural policing, she lived and breathed the job and was there for the community.

“Living at the police house meant that if I wasn’t at the station, people would come and knock on my door.”

Sen Const Fincham-Putter said being a rural police officer in a small town, she knew everything about everyone and was “the keeper of a lot of secrets”.

Working on her own forced her to think on her feet and she kept in contact with police in surrounding areas to prevent being isolated.

Sen Const Fincham-Putter said working and socialising in a small town, people would always ask her questions, and she would tell her friends, “When I’m working, I’m working”.

And if she was giving someone she knew a ticket for a traffic offence, for instance, and they said “Oh, c’mon Helen,” I just have to say, “No, sorry, this is my job.”

Rural policing wasn’t a walk in the park as it might seem, and she was called to all sorts of horrible events, she said.

“You follow incidents right through from start to finish.”

Among many memories throughout her career, one stood out the most. During a top security event in Christchurch, Mrs Fincham-Putter was on the gate.

She had been told not to let any cars through the gate unless they had a Crown number plate on them.

Little did she know then-prime minister Jenny Shipley’s Crown car had broken down and she was instead in a rental Ford Falcon.

“It came steaming towards the gate and looked like it wasn’t stopping, so I had to make it stop and smashed the front windscreen.”

“Next thing I knew the back window wound down and it was Jenny Shipley.”

Sen Const Fincham-Putter said her advice to someone starting rural policing would be, “You are it. Learn to work with people.”

She has signed a long-term lease for Stanley’s Hotel and said she was looking forward to the new challenge.