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There is nothing more human than the right to live

Venkat Raman – 
venkat@indiannewslink.co.nz

Friends call him ‘A Gentleman among Police Officers,’ colleagues say he promotes self-discipline and members of the community describe him as ‘A person who works hard towards safer communities.’

The reality is that Police Inspector Rakesh Naidoo is a firm believer in equal opportunity to every human being to lead a progressive life.

That was perhaps what made him the ideal choice to be the Strategic Advisor on Race Relations to Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy.

His responsibilities include leading and managing the work programme of Race Relations Commissioner on research, advocacy, project implementation, education and strategic stakeholder engagement.

It was a just a month or so ago that Rakesh took charge in his new assignment but there are already calls from many of his colleagues to ‘return sooner than the two-year stint,’

The man, first person of Asian ethnicity to rise to the rank of Inspector at the New Zealand Police, thought long and hard and discussed with his peers and superiors for almost a year before making the move.

None above law

There is a reason for the sentiments. From his days as a constable, sergeant and senior sergeant (known to this reporter since then), Rakesh has always been a caring, unassuming and conscientious police officer, always keen to observe the law, before enforcing it on others. He is the kind of officer who would ask the traffic police, “Please issue a speeding ticket,’ rather than argue.

“We are New Zealanders proud of our ‘above the board image.’ Let us remain that way and promote good policing habits,” he would say.

When he was promoted to the rank of Inspector and posted to the Police National Headquarters in Wellington four years ago, his brief was to advice the Police Commissioner and Management on ways and means of fostering good relations with various ethnic communities.

He not only rose to the occasion but also led initiatives that respond to New Zealand’s diverse ethnic communities.

“These initiatives have resulted in the New Zealand Police being at the forefront of ethnic strategy development and engagement and contributed towards successfully managing major incidents,” Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.

Growing diversity

If Rakesh is proud of his job and the blue uniform, he always shows it.

“As one of the most diverse nations in the OECD, New Zealand should act quickly to reap the benefits of new migrants and forestall problems, and the most critical period lies in their first two years after arrival, the first leg of their settlement journey.”

He has learnt the settlement journey from personal experience.

Born and raised in South Africa, he went to India when he was 19 years old to spend four years working in the voluntary sector and exploring his cultural roots.

He later worked for a not-for-profit organisation in Washington DC before migrating to New Zealand in 2001.

With his bright and enthusiastic disposition. Rakesh was a man with a difference at the Royal New Zealand Police College in Wellington. He was also distinct with his eating habits- whoever had heard of a pure vegetarian who also religiously avoided onion and garlic in the Force?

He was spared a bench with ingredients at the pantry.

“It was a far cry from the Police College of today. In 2015, they cater for peanut allergy, gluten-free, halal and other dietary needs for cadets and officers.  As for vegetarians, there is a never-ending choice,” he said.

Following graduation, Rakesh was posted to Henderson in West Auckland and then, in 2004, to Christchurch where he worked until 2007.

In both places he was the only Asian officer.

New Zealand Police established the Office of Maori, Pacific and Ethnic Service in 2003, and in 2004 he became an Ethnic Liaison Officer, the first uniformed police officer to be appointed to the role.

Comfortable journey

His settlement journey was relatively smooth, supported by fluency in English.

“If the settlement experience can be managed well, it really contributes to the long term wellbeing of the person,” he said.

New Zealand Police can justifiably be proud of its contributions to the government’s Migrant Settlement Strategy, which include ‘Inclusion’ and ‘Health and Wellbeing.’

*

Photo Caption:

Inspector Rakesh Naidoo

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