The police staff torch relay to mark 75 years of women in policing is on its way around New Zealand. To mark the occasion Hawke’s Bay Today will feature a local police woman each day this week. Today, Sergeant Melanie Leonard.

What ignited your passion to join and how old were you when you trained?

As corny as this sounds I wanted to make a difference ... I was a teenage mum and, at the age of 34, I joined the police to be a role model to my two sons, the eldest of whom is a police officer too now.

Where was your first post and where has your career taken you?

I started in Hamilton and have been in Hawke's Bay for the past three years. I am originally from Waimarama. I have worked in a number of work groups, from traffic alcohol, front line, beat section, and iwi liaison.


Do you have a favourite or least favourite part of the job?

Informing family when someone has lost their life.

Do you have a story you would like to share?

When I was working in Hamilton, I went to the local BP to fill up my car and buy a coffee. The lady serving me kept smiling at me and as she handed me my coffee and I went to pay she held up her hand and said "your coffee is on me". She said "you don't remember me but I remember you, you came to my house a year ago when my little girl went missing for five hours. I was beside myself and I remember you giving me a hug and even though I was losing it, that hug helped me so much. I want to pay for your coffee to thank you for that hug". We had found her little girl after five hours, she had crawled under the house to get a marble that fell through the deck and fallen asleep. Never underestimate the power you have to touch someone at a time when they need it the most.

What do you think about the 75 Years of Women in Policing national torch relay?

It's a fantastic event to celebrate, tomorrow it arrives at the Napier Sound Shell at 10am - free Devonshire tea and fun activities. At 10.30am it will travel via horse, bike, runners and hot rod to Te Mata Peak at 12.30pm to be abseiled down the peak supported by the Fire Service and run into Albert Park at 3pm for displays, recruiting, fun activities/competitions, police dogs, free sausage sizzle and supported by St John.

What do you do in your spare time while not at work?

I do waka ama, go to the gym and any chance I get I head to Hamilton to spend time with my four grandsons ... still waiting for a granddaughter.