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Former Otago Lakes-Central area commander Olaf Jensen, who retired from the police in October last year, was last week presented the organisation’s meritorious service medal.
Among those in attendance were Mr Jensen’s family, wife Jo and daughters Nicole and Charlotte, and a contingent of Southern police staff, including district commander Superintendent Paul Basham.
Police’s internal Ten One Magazine described Mr Jensen as "a southerner through and through".
In an article about the medal, it said Mr Jensen left his home on Stewart Island to join the police in 1981 and spent the next 39 years working in the South Island.
The medal is awarded for "notable dedication, innovation and commitment to police and the communities they serve".
Supt Basham told those gathered the medal was recognition of a continuity of service over a lifetime.
Fresh from training in 1981, Mr Jensen was sent to help during anti-Springbok tour protests outside Parliament before heading to Invercargill where he served as a constable. He went on to be based in Winton.
He led several high-profile search and rescue operations, including the response to the capsize of the fishing boat Easy Rider in Foveaux Strait.
Otago Coastal area commander Inspector Matenga Gray commented on Mr Jensen’s dedication to the communities he served and the respect he earned.
"The best assessment of your character comes from iwi Maori in Murihiku who just hold you in such great mana,” he said.
In 2014, Mr Jensen was asked to temporarily step into the role of Otago Lakes-Central area commander; he held the role for six years.
Among his experiences with the police were multiple brushes with royalty.
He was deployed to Waitangi when a baby Prince William visited with his parents in 1983, and many years later he managed security for one of the legs of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s New Zealand tour.
Presenting the medal, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said it acknowledged a career of outstanding and consistently excellent service.
Mr Jensen thanked the colleagues he had worked with, the organisation as a whole, and his family for their constant support.
The MSM was first presented in March 2014 for years of outstanding service that cannot otherwise be acknowledged through the police commissioner’s awards or the royal honours system. Mr Jensen’s was the 19th to be awarded.