Women pick up the baton but not yet the stripes

Female cops entered the ranks 75 years ago and still lag behind in equal policing roles.

On June 3, 1941 the first 10 female officers began training to enter the New Zealand Police.

Initially, female officers were admitted to the force as temporary constables.

They were not allowed to wear uniforms, carry batons and had no employment rights such as maternity leave. Their duties were geared towards women and children. In 1952 eight of those women were selected to become uniformed officers.

It wasn't until the 1970s that female cops were given the same uniform as men and the first female to achieve the highest rank was not decorated until 2002.

Now, 75 years to the day since the first were accepted, women make up about a third of all police staff, with the organisation setting a target to achieve a 50:50 balance.

Strong recruitment drives are targeted at attracting women, but there are still few at executive level.

New Zealand is behind other countries like Australia, the UK and US who have celebrated 100-plus years of women in the police force, but Commissioner Mike Bush said the agency is dedicated to achieving equality here.

Mr Bush said it was important for staff to reflect the communities in which they served.

"Nearly 20 per cent of constabulary staff are now women and we have set an aspirational target of 50 per cent, over time.

"I am committed to providing a workplace and culture that supports our talented and committed female staff throughout their career."

The first female officers, none of whom are still alive, were trailblazers who may have struggled to have successful careers, he said.

"Those first women officers should be recognised for their courage, their professionalism and their sheer will to succeed.

"Over the last 75 years there have been hurdles and challenges for women in the organisation to overcome, however today we are fully committed as an organisation to reflecting the communities we serve," he said.

However, there was still a lack of women in the highest-ranking positions - with seven superintendents, three district commanders and just two non-sworn women in the top executive structure.

The first woman to reach the superintendent rank, Sandra Manderson, said she would like to see more women at the top levels - and it was starting to happen.

"When I wanted to join the CIB I was told there was a limit of three women, so I had to wait. It was disappointing, but I knew I'd get in. That all changed eventually, it's very different now.

"There's certainly much more women and in much more varied roles - dog handling, AOS, CIB, road policing - there is just more of us and the big changes are that we are starting to move up the ranks."

A ceremony at Auckland Town Hall Councillor's Lounge at 9.30am will mark the occasion.

Mr Bush and Police Minister Judith Collins will be there to celebrate the occasion with retired and current female officers, whose service ranges from the 1940s to 1990s.

Six current officers will model replica uniforms from throughout the decades including the memorable 1960s miniskirt and boots with uniform handbags.

The trailblazer: Pauline Joblin

Pauline Joblin says being a woman sometimes had advantages in police work. Picture / Michael Craig
Pauline Joblin says being a woman sometimes had advantages in police work. Picture / Michael Craig

Pauline Joblin, who joined the police in 1964, saw a great deal of change for female officers during her 23 year career.

She said attitudes that women were inferior staff because of their perceived lack of strength were once prevalent.

However, she found being a woman officer had endless advantages for crime fighting and police duties.

She would often be the decoy in undercover stings to catch abortionists and would help diffuse tensions at the Bastion Point occupation in the late 1970s.

She was one of 600 police sent to remove protesters from Bastion Point, which had been occupied by Ngati Whatua opposing a Government plan to sub-divide the land.

The camp, which included women and children, took all day to clear and 222 people were arrested.

Pauline took sweets, which she shared with the children.

Her career spanned Wellington and Auckland and she has since been awarded the Queen's Service Medal for work that included her tireless efforts to support the welfare of police families.

She was chairwoman of the Police Benevolent Fund and served on the committee of the Centennial Trust.

The glass-ceiling breaker: Superintendent Sandra Manderson

Canterbury police commander Superintendent Sandra Manderson. Photo / Simon Baker
Canterbury police commander Superintendent Sandra Manderson. Photo / Simon Baker

In 2002, when she was made Superintendent, Sandra Manderson was the first female to reach the highest rank in the New Zealand Police.

She was also the first female to be made a District Commander when she presided over her native Canterbury for six years.

Throughout her 35-year career she has been stationed all over New Zealand and in Washington, United States - she worked her way up from front-line officer to detective and is now one of the country's most senior police personnel.

"I wanted to join the police when I was about 6, that's always what I wanted to do. People ask what it's like to be a woman police officer, but that's all I have ever been."

Her accomplishments include being in charge of the Cricket World Cup and Fifa Under-20 World Cup when they were last held in New Zealand.

She was also awarded an honorary law doctorate from the University of Canterbury, where she graduated with a Master of Science and Master of Business Administration.

Her path to the top has not always been easy.

"There was barriers, but my attitude was get around them, get over them, get through them."

While the progression of women in policing had changed significantly in her career, it would still be good to see more females at the top, she said.

The new recruit: Constable Trish Fatu, 26

Being a female officer can be an advantage in dealing with young people, Constable Trish Fatu has found. Picture / Brett Phibbs
Being a female officer can be an advantage in dealing with young people, Constable Trish Fatu has found. Picture / Brett Phibbs

Officers visiting her primary school and working to solve the frequent burglaries at her Mt Albert childhood home inspired Trish Fatu to one day don the blue uniform.

Nearly a year in as a sworn officer, Ms Fatu is the face of a modern, diversified police force. She is from a Pasifika background and even starred in the viral Running Man video.

"When I was growing up we got burgled quite a few times and I always loved the way police helped out, their response was urgent and they did everything they could.

"At school the road patrol police officer, he would look to me as the leadership person in the group we were in so that felt a bit special. Since I was 7 years old I had made up my mind that I wanted to be a police officer."

She never felt she was treated differently for being a woman in the police, she said.

"Everything has been positive. We all carry the same deportments, there is really no difference between male and female in the police force.

"Even when I am not at a job I get called there to come as muscle."

If anything, it was an advantage, she said.

"In my experience, dealing with juveniles that have absconded from CYF, they are more likely to open up and tell me what's going on being female rather than my male offsider."

Girls in blue

• 1941 - First 10 women admitted to police training

• 1952 - Allowed to wear uniforms

• 1976 - Women allowed to wear pants

• 2002 - First woman made Superintendent

• 2016 - Women make up 32% of total workforce; their representation by rank is:
Constable 21.4%
Sergeant 11.6%
Senior Sergeant 11.4%
Inspector 12.3%
Superintendent 14%

- NZ Herald

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