Extraordinary police stories from quake re-surface as street art in Christchurch When Constable Nao Yoshimizu and Constable Spence Kingi started their shifts on 22nd February, neither knew what would be in store in the days ahead. Each took on significant roles in the earthquake rescue and recovery effort. They displayed bravery, compassion and quick thinking - qualities which are in high demand by police recruitment.
Their stories are now being re-told through street art on Christchurch streets. The artwork was created by Otis Frizzell who is working with police to acknowledge the extraordinary work undertaken by these officers and other emergency responders following the February 22 earthquake.
Acting Canterbury District Commander, Superintendent Andy McGregor, says the new recruitment initiative was inspired not only by emergency responders activities during the quake, but also by the huge number of young people who responded by donating their time and resources to clean up the city.
"It really reinforced that many young people are passionate about helping their community in times of need. Police are keen to tap into that passion and demonstrate that Policing offers a career choice which is both exciting and rewarding,"
"We understand that New Zealand's brightest young people are in high demand. As such, NZ Police needs to pitch its career in a different way," says Andy.
On 22 February Constable Kingi helped to rescue three people. Spence's first act was to rescue a woman from an elevator shaft in a crumbling building. He then rescued a concussed man from the drop zone off falling scaffolding and performed first aid. Finally, Constable Kingi worked with a member of the public to free a man trapped beneath the rubble of a CBD bar. Otis Frizzell has captured Spence's story on the wall of 399 Montreal Street. His likeness is seen pulling a victim out of the rubble which lies beneath the artwork.
Constable Nao Yoshimizu's story is one of the lesser known stories from the earthquake. Yoshi acted as a liaison officer for the families of the 28 Japanese victims following the February earthquake.
When relatives of the victims arrived from Japan, they struggled to comprehend what was happening.
Yoshi's compassion for the victims' families was demonstrated when escorting family members to sites of significance around Christchurch. - Yoshi understood that it is common in Japanese culture to "feel and care for the recently deceased as though he/she were still alive." He knew that a memorial and the laying of white flowers at the location of death was crucial to allow the victims' spirits to live onward. However when the bus arrived at the CTV building site, Yoshi was informed that passengers were unable to leave the bus because safety of concerns. Yoshi offered to take the families' flowers, to lay them at the CTV site on their behalf. At this moment, Yoshi was sharing the grief of his own people for those lives which were tragically lost. As a police officer, he enabled important cultural traditions to be respected while ensuring the safety of the victim's families.
Yoshi's artwork can be found on 817 Colombo street.
Out of respect for the privacy of those who died, the civilians featured in the Christchurch artwork are actors. Given the sensitive nature surrounding both stories, local Japanese communities have been consulted prior to installing the artwork. Both artwork sites were blessed by the Iwi before installing the street art.
Superintendent McGregor says he hopes re-telling extraordinary police stories through street art will encourage young people look at policing in a different light.
"We are actively looking to recruit young people with an understanding of different cultures and languages. The February earthquake showed how important this is. Families from 20 countries were affected by the February earthquake. NZ Police Maori Pacific and Ethnic Services were able to assign liaison officers with an understanding of the language and cultural requirements of every nationality involved"
"We hope that through telling Yoshi's and Spence's stories we can inspire others to take on the extraordinary challenges offered by a career in NZ Police."
Similar art installations have already been undertaken in Auckland and Wellington in an effort to tell extraordinary police stories in local communities. Together with the Christchurch stories, the artwork will form the basis of a nationwide outdoor, reality TV and online recruitment drive. All necessary approvals have been sought and given to make it the art installations happen.
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