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Acting area commander has his career on a fast track

Following the recent retirement of Wairarapa area commander Scott Miller, 39-year-old Richard Wilson has been appointed as acting area commander. Times-Age reporter FREDDIE WILKIE sat down with Wilson in his undercover car to get to know the region’s new top cop.

Having grown up and spent most of his life in Christchurch, Wilson joined New Zealand Police in early 2010 as a 25-year-old frontline officer patrolling the streets of the Garden City.

That meant that a year into his police career, Wilson was on the spot when the devastating earthquake struck on February 22, 2011.

“I was part of the first response team that dealt with the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake,” he said, and was on the site of the Canterbury Television building where 115 lost their lives when it collapsed.

Wilson got most of his operational policing experience while serving in Christchurch and the wider Canterbury region, including roles on the road policing team and a unit targeting ‘boy racers’ [known as the Anti-Social Road Users Group], and working as a prosecutor.

He was also involved for several years in an operation aimed at dismantling gangs in the city, most notably the disestablishment of the Rebels Motorcycle Club gang pad.

On Saturday, June 18, 2016, a police statement quoted the then-sergeant Wilson noting that, “The public does not want these criminal gangs set up in their neighbourhoods, around their schools, their businesses, or their shopping malls.”

In 2018, Wilson landed at Police Headquarters in Wellington, where he became a national commander in the National Command and Coordination Centre.

During his time in the capital, he also worked in operations in the Counter Terrorism Unit.

Following the March 15, 2019 terror attack on two mosques in Christchurch, he was “involved from the view of national deployment and working with our other agencies”.

Wilson also served as liaison officer in the National Command Management Centre, which works with all of the government agencies to respond to major issues, and was “part of the covid-19 operation with the national deployment of our staff around the initial standup of MIQ facilities”, as well as being involved in the responses to the 2019 White island eruption and the 2022 Nelson floods.

More recently, Wilson has been working on firearm reforms and is the director of operations for the Firearms Safety Authority [FSA], for which he established the regulatory body governing that group.

Which begs the question, if he’s the director of operations for the FSA, why has he moved to Wairarapa to become the acting area commander?

“This role moving here was for me to get back out and reconnect with policing, especially rural policing, to understand the challenges we face in rural communities,” he said.

“I am looking to see how police can best support our communities and our staff in that space; I will be looking to take that understanding back to Wellington to make sure we are effective in our policing service.”

Wilson joined Wairarapa police in March this year as the acting area commander, a role he conducts alongside his role as FSA director of operations.

Asked about Wilson’s suitability for his new regional role, Wairarapa Police area prevention manager Gill Flower said he is “a good fit”.

“His leadership is what makes him great, and he has done well taking on this challenge.”

Flower confidently predicted that, in the next five years, Wilson could well be on track to become the police commissioner.

As the interview reached its conclusion, Wilson noted that while he is only Wairarapa’s interim commander, there is no rush to appoint a replacement.

“We will take time to make sure we get the right person for Wairarapa,” he said.

He finished the interview by expressing his appreciation for how welcoming the region’s residents have been to him and vowed to “work as hard as possible to make sure the region gets the service it needs”.

“It’s a great challenge.”

Freddie Wilkie
Freddie Wilkie
Freddie Wilkie is a journalist at the Wairarapa Times-Age; originally moving from Christchurch, he is interested in housing stories as well as covering emergencies and crime.

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