BORN and bred and “will not be leaving”, Southland Police Area Commander Inspector Mike Bowman has been backing his community on and off the clock for more than three decades.
Despite having 35 years’ experience with New Zealand Police, Insp Bowman is humble about his successes.
“[I] certainly don’t feel like a prominent person, just someone doing a job which can hopefully have a positive impact in the community.”
His career started after completing an engineering apprenticeship at Tiwai Point’s aluminium smelter in 1985.
“[It] seemed like quite an exciting job… I wanted to try something different [and I] always had engineering to fall back on if it didn’t work out.”
After two years working as a frontline constable, he was selected to be part of the New Zealand Police United Nations contingent, which travelled to Namibia for 12 months in 1989.
Upon his return to Southland, he trained to become a sergeant – a title he earned after two years.
“Then I went to run the Criminal Investigation Branch [CIB] in Winton for about four or five years as a detective sergeant. Then back to Invercargill as a detective sergeant leading various CIB squads.”
However, his progression did not end there.
From 2007 to 2008, he worked in Rwanda, assisting the Rwandan Government in investigating the Rwandan genocide – the second overseas deployment he considered a highlight of his career.
From there, he made his way up the ranks in Southland and was promoted to detective senior sergeant, then inspector as the Southland area prevention manager, and in 2019, had the “privilege” of being appointed as Southland area commander.
“I served on the Police Invercargill Search and Rescue squad for about nine years [and] spent 28 years as a member of the Southland Police negotiation squad.
Insp Bowman credits his achievements to “a lot of hard work and study”.
“Throughout my career, I have not stopped studying and learning, through frontline and then training to become a detective, then studying for promotional exams.”
Earlier this year, he attended The Australian Institute of Police Management in Manly, Australia, where he completed a postgraduate certificate in emergency management.
One of the most valuable things he had learned throughout the years was the importance of communication, he said.
“Communication is the best tool in a police officer’s toolbox. The importance of partnerships, both internally and externally, are crucial if we want to succeed.”
While his role came with a huge amount of time commitment, he always jumped at the opportunity to get involved in his community, he said.
“Southland is a fantastic place to live and the community are engaging and will very quickly rally around others in times of need, in particular the police family.”
When he was not out in the field at work, he was often found on the rugby field.
“I am a rugby referee and have been for quite a few years [but I] had a break last year due to commitments with my new role.”
A pioneer for his community, he had also been involved in a variety of fundraising ventures with the Cancer Society since the early 1990s, Terry Fox runs, and was on the Relay for Life committee.
“I am also involved in Koru Care Southland, which is a fantastic group of people who take children to Australia and America every year on trips of a lifetime.
“It’s really rewarding seeing the kids grow in confidence [and] independence as the trips progress.”
One of his favourite things to do outside of work was take some time to “clear the head with a good long walk”, he said.