Former Police Commissioner Mike Bush, who has headed the force in some of its most trying times, was today made a companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to police and the community.
Mr Bush said he was “absolutely humbled” by the Queen's Birthday honour.
“I’ve had a wonderful opportunity to work inside a brilliant organisation with thousands of people who just want to do the right thing by their community,” he told 1 NEWS.
Mr Bush said getting the award was recognition of the role he had as a police officer within the organisation of thousands he later led.
“[The honour] is really a reflection of the wonderful people that serve our country inside the New Zealand Police ... I absolutely accept it on their behalf.”
The former Police Commissioner was born in Waikato and grew up all over the North Island. He became a police officer 42 years ago and served as the Police Commissioner for the past six.
Mr Bush said he joined police out of school for an “exciting career” while helping the community.
“It’s lived up to every expectation,” he said.
“I never had any thought of being a Police Commissioner during that 42 years or most of it. I just wanted to be a good police officer.”
Mr Bush’s last months as Police Commissioner has seen its fair share of incidents, including the Christchurch mosque attacks, the Whakaari/White Island eruption, and now the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Bush said he would never forget the day of the Christchurch mosque attacks.
“We really felt for everyone in New Zealand, particularly those victims and the families of those victims, but again, for all New Zealanders, who shared that grief," he said.
“That day in March will probably go down as the most significant day in my police career."
During the Whakaari/White Island eruption in December last year, he praised NZDF specialists.
"Really, what they did for those victims, and for the wider community – we really need to take our hat off to them and acknowledge their courage and their commitment,” Mr Bush said in December.
He said the trials that New Zealand faced, now with the Covid-19 pandemic, showed Kiwis’ spirits. Mr Bush joined the Government’s operational task force to Covid-19.
“Seeing the way our country responds … the positive part is the respect that people show for each other.”
Beyond the past year, Mr Bush was busy throughout his time as Police Commissioner.
In 2014, Mr Bush apologised to the families affected by the Urewera "terror raids" of 2007.
"The visits are to acknowledge these whänau, the fear that they experienced, the situations they were placed in and the damage that was caused," he said in 2014.
"It's really important to me to say sorry to those children who were present so they know what happened to them was wrong."
In September last year after police staff made allegations of bullying within the force, Mr Bush said "bullying is not tolerated at any level of the organisation”.
“As the Commissioner I ensure that anything is followed up and we create a culture where it’s safe for people to work."
In October last year, while he was still Police Commissioner, Mr Bush announced a six-month trial of the Armed Response Team (ART), full-time police units who would carry firearms in Counties Manukau, Waikato and Canterbury.
ART officers were trained to be ready to respond to "high-risk" incidents at any time. However, it attracted criticism, with the group People Against Prisons Aotearoa warning it could cause "American-style shootings".
Mr Bush said at the time the police's operating environment had changed since the March 15 mosque attacks.
He marked his last day as Police Commissioner on April 2, but went on to continue his work in the Government's Covid-19 operational task force.
Regarding the future of the police force, he said it was about adding onto the building blocks of policing in a compassionate way.
“We need to continue with our current trajectory. So, continue to build what is a really, really good culture inside the organisation to provide the very, very best service to the public,” he said.
“Most of that work is completed. But, you want to keep that momentum up.”