New Zealand

Police try new cop café recruitment initiative in Northland

Northland police, with Sergeant Roger Dephoff at left, have been taking their recruitment drive around the cafes of the Far North.

Northland police, with Sergeant Roger Dephoff at left, have been taking their recruitment drive around the cafes of the Far North.
Photo: RNZ / Peter de Graaf

A new initiative is aiming to break down barriers holding Northlanders back from signing up for a career with the police.

The plan does not include doughnuts, but it does involve a lot of coffee.

For the past three days police have been basing themselves in cafés around the Far North as part of their novel recruitment drive.

Sergeant Roger Dephoff said he had so far brought his caffeine-fuelled mission to Breaking Bread café in Kaikohe, Mussel Rock in Kaitāia, and Sharp Café in Kerikeri.

“It’s about supporting new recruits, and people looking at joining, to just let go of their apprehensions and give it a go. It’s letting them realise they have the potential and to not let anything hold them back.

“A lot of guys are a bit whakamā [shy] about joining. They think probably they’re not fit enough, they’re not academically ready, but they’ll surprise themselves.”

Dephoff said the café setting helped put people at ease.

“We’re human, we come with the same stories they do, so if they can relax enough to come and talk to us, that’s great.”

Dephoff, who was based in Kawakawa, said he first tried to join the police when he was 19.

However, self-doubt set in and he did not finish the application process, only trying again in his 30s.

He wished he could have called into a cop café for advice or reassurance when he was younger.

“I got quite a way through the recruiting process but as a 19-year-old I still had doubts of myself.

“We didn’t have an initiative like this, so there was nothing to reassure me that I was doing all right.

“If I’d been put at ease, or just made to feel a bit more comfortable, I probably would’ve continued my journey at 19. I wouldn’t have waited until I was 33 to actually push the button.”

Northland police took their quest for new cops to Kerikeri's Sharp Café on Thursday

Northland police took their quest for new cops to Kerikeri’s Sharp Café on Thursday.
Photo: RNZ / Peter de Graaf

Among those keen to find out about signing up was Max from Waipapa.

Aged 19, he was the same age as Dephoff when he first wanted to join.

“I want to wake up in the morning and feel like I can make a difference … to come home from a long day and have done some good, rather than having the next day be the same as the last,” Max said.

Meanwhile, John, originally from the Shetland Islands but now living in the “paradise” of Kāeo, was chasing a lifelong dream of joining the thin blue line.

He had been a part-time police constable in Scotland and had volunteered as a firefighter for many years in New Zealand and the UK.

“It’s something I’ve always fancied doing. I’ve tried it a couple of times and not made the grade each time so I thought, well, I’ll give it another go.”

Police recruitment specialist Nyree Hobson said she had been pleased by Northlanders’ genuine interest.

Many people thought about signing up but did not take it any further, she said.

“I’ve found that when you are face to face with people they tend to open up a bit more … We’ve had quite a few who have applied before.

“They they just want to discuss how we can help prepare them a bit more to get through the process.”

There was just one downside of the cop café initiative, and that was the sheer amount of caffeine Dephoff had ingested during the week.

When RNZ caught up with him in Kerikeri he had switched from his usual flat white to something that looked suspiciously like it had chocolate sprinkles on top.

“It’s actually a cappuccino. I’m going to lie and say in the last three days I’ve averaged three coffees a day. I’m jacked up on caffeine quite a bit.”

Anyone who missed out on a free coffee but is keen to find out more about joining the force can head to

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