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Decades of service fighting crime

Inspector Scott Miller, Wairarapa’s new Area Commander. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

After 34 years in the police force, Scott Miller has seen his fair share of action. HAYLEY GASTMEIER caught up with Wairarapa’s newly-appointed Area Commander to find out why he loves his job.

Scott Miller joined the police in 1984, and in the years since, he’s helped solve high-profile murder cases, mingled with gangs, and enjoyed almost every minute of it.

Big on rugby, his decision to become a cop was born through the sport, having some good mates on his team who were police officers.

“It seemed like a good idea.”

Before this, he had done a stint at university and had briefly worked for a computer company.

Miller, a sixth generation Wellingtonian, says since stepping into the blue uniform, he’s never looked back.

“You know pretty early on whether you like it or not, and it’s never worried me.

“Whereas, some people find they can’t sleep with worries . . . I’ve always been quite comfortable.”

The best thing about being in the police was the camaraderie and support that came with the job, but it took a certain type of person to be able to cope with the reality of the role.

“If you’re not interested in helping people, you won’t survive,” he says.

Miller started out as a uniformed constable in Wellington, before moving into the Team Policing Unit [TPU], which worked nights from Thursday to Saturday, monitoring the public bars that were frequented by gangs.

He said the 19-strong team trained five days a week, “and we had all the riot gear”.

Things changed for the better when the Sale of Liquor Act 1989 was introduced, he said.

During his stint in the TPU, the team was posted to Wairarapa for four months to deal with the fire-bombing incidents in the late 1980s, when police officers’ homes were targeted by gangs with Molotov cocktails.

Miller joined the Criminal Investigation Branch in Wellington in 1991, qualifying as a detective a few years later.

“We were working on the frontline with the serious crime squad, so we were attending arsons, rapes, serious assaults, homicides – anything that was going on.”

He then moved into the Drug Squad, which targeted drug dealers, users, gangs, and worked closely with Customs to combat importation.

This role also entailed a lot of electronic interceptions through phone taps and bugs, as well as surveillance.

After darting back to former roles, in 2003 he found himself working as a community cop based in Kilbirnie.

In 2006 he was promoted to Detective Senior Sergeant.

“Then I started running homicide investigations.”

Many of these were high-profile cases, including the homicide of a baby in Upper Hutt in 2009.

“This took seven years to solve . . . that’s the longest one.”

His first case, as second-in-command, was Operation Red Rocks.

It began when Tony Stanlake’s handless body washed up on Wellington’s south coast in July 2006.

Stanlake’s 21-year-old, drug-dealing partner Daniel Moore was responsible for the death, enlisting his butcher friend to sever body parts.

Another case involved RNZ journalist Phillip Cottrell, who was attacked on Boulcott St, and died in 2011.

It was in 2013 that Miller moved to Wairarapa to run the CIB, a job which he handed over to the current CIB head, Detective Senior Sergeant Barry Bysouth, in 2015.

Then he was back to Wellington to work in the Organised Crime Unit.

He oversaw Operation Sweden, the investigation into Wairarapa methamphetamine dealers, and was Wairarapa Acting Area Commander when the operation was terminated, both here and in Auckland.

Miller was appointed Acting Area Commander last year when the region’s Area Commander Inspector Donna Howard was diagnosed with cancer. She died in January.

Miller was officially awarded the role recently.

As Area Commander, he oversees all aspects of policing in the region, which falls under the Wellington District.

“In this job, I am part of the district leadership team, representing Wairarapa and making sure we have a big voice and we get what we need.”

He says it is about listening to the community and working to deliver its needs.

After 34 years working in the face of danger, Miller has never feared for his life or been seriously injured.

“I’ve had the odd minor assault or threat, so I’ve been pretty lucky in that respect.”

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