Western Waikato’s new Area Commander

As a young detective working the Papakura streets, Inspector Will Loughrin saw first-hand the shattering realities of family violence.

A mother dead. A father sent to prison for murder. Three children left without parents.

It was a stark reality and one that gave the Waikato district’s new Western Area Commander an understanding of why focusing on family harm is so important to keep families safe in their homes.

Forming a close bond with the victim’s family through extreme trauma, Inspector Loughrin learnt empathy and taking a “people first” approach to policing. A decade on, he intends to bring those values to his new role as Waikato district’s new western area commander.

“My first role is to speak to our people and communities to establish what is important to them, what they are hearing and seeing, which informs how we will Police.”

As the rain came down on Monday morning, Inspector Loughrin was welcomed onto Waahi Paa in the heart of Huntly with a powerful powhiri from the Rāhui Pōkeka community and Rangatahi from Te Whare kura o Rakaumanga.

The western patch stretches from Meremere in the north, along Waikato’s west coast and through the King Country to Piopio in the south. It’s a large area with diverse communities that will take some dynamic partnerships and no “one-size fits all approach”.

Inspector Loughrin, 34, has always enjoyed the people side of policing and wants an open-door policy where communities and partners can communicate freely, while ensuring staff are supported to do their job.

“I know the responsibility this role carries for our Western communities, Iwi, and police – this really excites me because together we can make positive change for our communities.

“People must come first, as they are at the centre of everything we do. It is my role to ensure that when our people come to work, they bring their true self, are valued and supported, so that they can do their best for our communities.

“It is really important that our staff look beyond what is front of them. What I have learnt in my policing career is that there is always a back story to every incident, and we need to know what that is before we can fix the problem. We can’t do this alone and that is why strong long-term partnerships with Iwi, community, government agencies, and NGO’s are so important to me.”

He has links to Te Arawa and Ngāti Whakaue in the Bay of Plenty. As the son of a New Zealand police officer, who went on to be a Chief Detective Inspector in Hong Kong Police, policing was always a career he saw himself doing. At the age of 19, he joined Police, starting out in South Auckland where he qualified as a detective.

One of his first investigations was the murder of a police employee. He recalls being taken to the scene by the 16-year-old offender who showed officers where he had undertaken the fatal stabbing the night before.

In 2011, Inspector Loughrin and his family, moved to the Waikato where he developed a career in investigations. He’s worked in CIB and Organised Crime in Hamilton City and eastern area, promoting to senior sergeant as shift commander before going back to CIB as eastern area manager of investigations.

This year he’s worked simultaneously on three homicide investigations, leading the Operation Kane team investigating the death of Sao Young – the Hamilton man found dead at a rural Gordonton property during the Covid-19 lockdown.

It was hugely rewarding to be able to inform the victim’s family that we had charged six people in relation to his death and see the relief on their faces.

“I’m lucky to work with such fantastic committed police officers who only want the best for our communities and victims.”

But it was his time relieving in the western area that propelled him to apply for his role. When it comes to leading the area, Inspector Loughrin wants to develop people across all police workgroups – promoting and get out on the road to meet staff and play his part in keeping the roads safe.

He’s excited to deliver new rural support officers to the Ōtorohanga and Te Kauwhata communities to prevent and detect crime and crashes in the communities.

He says it’s important for police to be visible and provide a service the community desires while focusing on keeping homes safe from family harm and burglary, targeting drugs and organised crime, which he says is a massive driver for other offending.

He credited the work of previous Western Area Commander, Inspector Andrew Mortimore, and said he would value the relationships with the western community, continuing to listen and understand iwi and community views.

“I want to know your expectations of Police, your issues and aspirations and how Police can walk alongside you to achieve this,” he told the community.

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