Larissa Berends is no stranger to her new beat. Oamaru Mail reporter Kayla Hodge finds out more about the new Oamaru police constable, who grew up in North Otago and is rapt to return home.
Q Tell me a little bit about yourself, Larissa.
I am born and bred Otago. I grew up in Dunedin and then moved to Kurow in my adolescent years. Since then, I have temporarily lived overseas, but always kept local to Oamaru and Kurow.
Q What did you do before becoming a police officer?
I worked primarily in hospitality. I held my LCQ and duty manager’s licence. When I turned 18, I made it over to the UK with a two year work visa. While I was there I was lucky enough to have family in London and another family member in France. I made the most of their generous hospitality and did a small amount of travelling through parts of Italy, France, England and Ireland. When I lived in Kurow I was a volunteer firefighter for the local brigade – and loved it.
Q Why did you want to become a police officer?
Many reasons. I really enjoyed my recruit volunteer firefighter course in Dunedin – it made me want to seek out the next challenge.
I saw a lot of advertising about new cops and the more I looked into it the more I realised it was something I really wanted to do.
Q When did you complete your training, and what did you enjoy the most about it?
I graduated at the Royal New Zealand Police College in October 2019. It’s hard to pick a favourite part. I loved the entire experience, but I really enjoyed the driving and firearms training.
Q You were previously with the Timaru police. Tell me about your time there.
Yes, Timaru had an opening for a constable, so I was deployed there straight from college. I was stationed there from November 2019 to January 2021.
I really enjoyed my time there. I was lucky enough to be a part of a high performing team.
Q How long have you been working in Oamaru, and why did you want to make the shift?
I started here January 11. My partner and I own a house here and we really like Oamaru. We think it has a lot of potential. I made the transfer so I wasn’t travelling such long distances after shifts.
Q Do you have any moments that stand out to you from your career so far?
Yes, heaps! I can’t really narrow it down . . .
Q What do you enjoy most about the job, and what are the toughest parts?
I love all aspects of the job. It’s especially rewarding when you can genuinely help someone change their life for the better, sometimes even through small interactions.
We often see people at their worst, so it’s awesome to catch up with them later on down the track and see them doing better.
Some of the tough parts are definitely being the bearer of bad news. No-one wants to see us on their door step at 2 or 3 in the morning. It’s part of why we do what we do, to prevent tragedies.
Q What do you think is the most important role police play in smaller communities like Oamaru?
Ultimately, keeping everyone safe. Helping those who need it, even when they don’t know they need it.
Q What do you like to do in your spare time?
Spare time is rare. At the moment my fiance and I are slowly doing renovations on our first home. We are also training our new puppy, which is hectic. But when I can, I enjoy getting outdoors, fishing, hiking and catching up with friends and family.