The new top cop for Whangarei and Kaipara got a baptism of fire at an unruly council meeting.
Inspector Tracy Phillips was appointed last Monday as relieving area commander after the sudden departure of the outspoken Paul Dimery.
Just two days into the job her policing skills were put to the test at a Whangarei District Council meeting on Wednesday.
In the public forum session Vivienne Shepherd was invited to speak on her chosen topic of "dogs and psychomotor behaviour".
But after months of trying to get a hearing at the council, Ms Shepherd was angry she was told just 30 minutes before the meeting that she would be allowed to speak.
As her anger and hurt boiled over she began yelling, and was asked by mayor Morris Cutforth to tone it down or leave.
But Ms Shepherd was unable to control herself, chanting that the council was a "pack of bullies".
"I'm hurt and my hurt is showing in my voice. I'm offended and I'm sick to death of the behaviour of these people here," she said, sitting down and refusing to leave.
Mr Cutforth adjourned the meeting and asked chief executive Mark Simpson to ensure that Ms Shepherd left.
Help was called on from uniformed police officers Ms Phillips and Senior Sergeant Cliff Metcalfe, who were there to talk to councillors.
Ms Phillips put her negotiating skills to the test, calming Ms Shepherd down by listening to her and giving her time to speak to Mr Simpson.
Ms Phillips says she will be the relieving area commander until the position is filled, and will probably apply for the job.
"I've already seen a lot of passionate people here," she says.
Ms Phillips has been in the police for 22 years, mostly in the central and Wellington districts.
She has spent most of her career in frontline roles and in the mid-1990s she was one of the first women dog handlers.
She has recently worked in police national headquarters as the national alcohol programme manager, where she took part in the Law Commission review of liquor laws.
If Ms Phillips becomes area commander she will be the second woman in Northland to do so, with Inspector Wendy Robilliard starting as new Far North area commander recently.
Five years ago a commission of inquiry by Dame Margaret Bazley painted a grim picture of a "male-orientated" force and this year's State Services Commission review confirms there are still few women at a senior police level. Just one woman is in the force's top 52 roles, with Superintendent Sandra Manderson being the only woman to hold the rank of superintendent.
But that is improving. In 2001 just 2.2 per cent of senior sergeants were women, this year 10.4 per cent are.
- © Fairfax NZ News