Her parents wanted her to become a doctor or a lawyer, but 28-year-old Shazmeen Khan stood her ground to live her childhood dream of becoming a police officer.

"Especially for an Indian Muslim woman, it's not a job that you would go around saying 'hey Dad, I want to be a police officer'," said Ms Khan, the only daughter in the family.

"It took some convincing but eventually they were very supportive."

The Fijian-born constable will today be revealed as the first Muslim woman to have successfully come through a programme to help police increase diversity on the front line and within its ranks.


Te Wananga o Aotearoa (TWoA), which runs the 18-week certificate course, is signing a new memorandum of understanding with police to expand the programme. Ms Khan said the increasing ethnic diversity of Auckland's resident population means the city needs an equally diverse police force.

Of the 12,000 sworn police officers in New Zealand, 11.6 per cent are Maori, about 5 per cent are Pacific Islanders and 2.5 per cent are Asian or "others".

Ms Khan is attached to the Counties Manukau Police District, and also helps with recruitment campaigns aimed at ethnic minorities.

She does not wear a hijab or Islamic headscarf with her police uniform.

"Being ethnic, female and Muslim, it obviously helps when I am attending to cases involving ethnic or Muslims," she said. "We naturally have this mutual understanding, I'm able to translate for them if they speak Hindi and don't speak English and help both sides understand what's going on."

The TWoA programme targets young Maori, Pasifika and ethnic people - helping them improve their understanding of tikanga Maori, leadership communication skills, numeracy and fitness - for a career in the police. Since it began in 2009, more than 70 who finished the course have graduated from the Royal New Zealand Police College and many are now working throughout the Counties Manukau, Waikato, Rotorua and the Gisborne/East Coast areas.

Commissioner Mike Bush said attracting people with the right skills to serve on the frontline was essential.

As part of a "Turning of the Tide" Whanau Ora crime and crash prevention strategy, the police are doubling the number of their ethnic staff to improve the way they engage and respond to ethnic communities.