Police women in the spotlight

New Zealand police women are in the spotlight as a range of initiatives - and a new reality TV show - are announced.

New police commissioner Mike Bush this morning announced in Wellington three new initiatives to drive women's success within the ranks.

"We've got a long way to grow," he said.

Feedback from women in police, who represent about a fifth of the sworn force, has prompted the creation of a women's advisory board.

The steering group, which will be chaired by Paula Rebstock, was introduced by Bush and Police Minister Anne Tolley this morning. It has been created in recognition of a need to recruit more women, particularly into leadership positions, Bush said.

The moves come after Dame Margaret Bazeley's damning 2007 report stemming from a Commission of Inquiry onto culture amid the ranks.

It found women were under-represented at the senior level, that there was a culture of nepotism and discrimination.

Police set a series of five-year targets in response to the report, and today announced a focus on recruiting more women to swell the 12,000 strong ranks.

There are 1700 women in police. So far three have served in the top rank of superintendent.

Tolley recounted the history of women in the force. They were only allowed to join the police in 1941.

Advertisements were for single or widowed ladies, distinguished by their "uniform" of civilian hats, gloves and handbags.

Both Tolley and Bush called for more women in leadership in police. Tolley said part of the women's advisory groups role would be to help women focus on leadership positions and address what might be holding them back from the top jobs.

Bush said a culture of discrimination was not tolerated at any level and systems like police liaisons for women to report to at district level were in place in the case of any ill treatment.

Meanwhile, the public will get an insight into how women work on the beat with seven female cops, including Wellington and Hutt Valley officers, to be featured in TVNZ's upcoming Police 10-7-style reality show Women In Blue.

The Dominion Post