Superintendents Tusha Penny and Lauano Sue Schwalger are set to join the top ranks of the police.

Two senior female police officers have been picked for promotion into the upper echelon of the police force.

Only one woman had previously attained the rank of Assistant Commissioner.

Now Tusha Penny and Lauano Sue Schwalger are set to join Sandra Venables in the executive team, a police spokesperson confirmed to the Herald.

With long and successful careers, Schwalger and Penny are currently the superintendents in charge of the Central and Waitemata police districts respectively.

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Schwalger, who this year received the Samoan chiefly title of Lauano, rose to national prominence as the detective in charge of the high profile Scott Guy murder investigation.

Penny, who is of Ngāti Porou descent, is best known for blowing the whistle on a backlog of child abuse cases then leading widespread changes to how abuse and sexual violence cases are investigated across the country.

Both have been recommended for the rank of Assistant Commissioner which now goes through a formal notification process.

Superintendent Tusha Penny has been a strong advocate for victims of family and sexual violence. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
Superintendent Tusha Penny has been a strong advocate for victims of family and sexual violence. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

If confirmed, Schwalger and Penny will start their new roles in four weeks' time.

Schwalger will be responsible for managing the 12 district commanders, replacing John Tims who was promoted to Deputy Commissioner.

Penny will take charge of operations, replacing Mike Rusbatch who is now responsible for planning of APEC and the America's Cup.

The reshuffle means three of the nine current Assistant Commissioners are women.

No female police officer has risen higher in the ranks, although Audrey Sonerson joined the police as Deputy Commissioner in late 2016 after a successful career in the public service.

She was seconded to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade but is due back at the end of the year.

Superintendent Sue Schwalger is the Central police district commander and led a number of high profile investigations. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
Superintendent Sue Schwalger is the Central police district commander and led a number of high profile investigations. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

While 66 per cent of all non-sworn police staff are women, just 19.6 per cent of constabulary staff are female.

The police have set themselves a target of 50 per cent of recruits on all wings to be women, as well as a goal of Māori to make up 25 per cent of recruits.

Earlier this year, the Herald revealed how the size of the police executive had grown in recent years despite overall staff numbers hovering around 12,000.

Reporting to Police Commissioner Mike Bush are four deputy commissioners and four deputy chief executives, as well as a Chief of Staff.

Tims was promoted internally at the same time Wally Haumaha was appointed as the statutory Deputy Commissioner to replace Viv Rickard.

The process of Haumaha's appointment is now the subject of a Government Inquiry.

Despite the promotion, Haumaha retained his current responsibilities and Tims took over Rickard's overall responsibility for the 12 police districts.

On the next tier down are nine Assistant Commissioners (10 when Sonerson comes back and her interim replacement Andy Coster returns to his role) and two executive directors.

A spokeswoman for Police National Headquarters defended the size of the leadership team by saying the executive structure is now "appropriately sized" for an organisation of 12,500 and growing by 20 per cent over the next four years.

Police Executive


• Police Commissioner Mike Bush
• Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha (Maori, Pacific and Ethnic Services)
• Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement (Operations)
• Deputy Commissioner John Tims (Districts)
• Deputy Commissioner Andy Coster (Strategy/Partnerships - acting for Audrey Sonerson)
• Deputy Chief Executive Mark Evans (Service Delivery)
• Deputy Chief Executive Kaye Ryan (People & Capability)
• Deputy Chief Executive Jane Archibald (Public Affairs - acting for Karen Jones)
• Deputy Chief Executive John Bole (Finance)
• Chief of Staff - Cassandra Anderson

• Assistant Commissioner Bill Searle (Districts)
• Assistant Commissioner Sue Schwalger (Districts)
• Assistant Commissioner Sandra Venables (Prevention/Road Policing)
• Assistant Commissioner Tusha Penny (Operations/Response)
• Assistant Commissioner Jevon McSkimming (Service)
• Assistant Commissioner Richard Chambers (Serious and Organised Crime
• Assistant Commissioner Mike Pannett (International and National Security)
• Assistant Commissioner Hamish McCardle (Performance)
• Assistant Commissioner Mike Rusbatch (APEC and America's Cup)
• Executive Director Angela Brazier (Strategy and Transformation)
• Executive Director Sharon Hart (Finance)