Lower Hutt's first uniformed woman police constable was appointed to the police 60 years ago on January 26, 1953, and was assigned to her role at Lower Hutt on January 17, 1956.
She was Constable Lois Ivy Collins. Like the current 43 women stationed at Lower Hutt today, she took her oath to serve our present Queen. Unlike her 43 successors her role focused on women and children only.
Her appointment, her restricted role and the innovation of her uniform as the visible presence of the police came when the Hutt Valley was experiencing the nationally significant post-war juvenile crime and population boom.
Her appointment gave her a vitally important role in the social history of the Hutt Valley.
War babies who had grown up with fathers absent fighting overseas and who had possibly also been the victims of their father's post traumatic war stress, reached puberty.
In Constable Collins' role, the minors and women who were victims of sexual predators and other crime had a visible representative of the long arm of the law dedicated to their protection on their turf.
Her appointment was part of a police strategy to address the doubling of sexual delinquency charges in the two years to 1954, a problem which was still being reported on by Senior Sergeant Quartley of Lower Hutt as being significant in 1957.
An example of a man luring a 15-year-old away from her schooling into a life of sex, make-up and booze is given in an Evening Post article in August 1954 which reports on a man charged with carnal knowledge of a minor.
A national report by the Special Committee on Moral Delinquency in Children and Adolescents was tabled in Parliament as the Mazengarb Report.
Sherwood Young, editor of With Confidence and Pride: policing the Wellington Region 1840-1992, wrote: "There was little the police could do directly to solve the problem aside from putting more officers into the areas of greatest need."
Constable Collins in navy blue serge uniform went into local schools as part of a positive police response to these issues.
By the time she took up her work in the Hutt Valley she was in the top third of New Zealand's most experienced policewomen, according to a 1956 police survey of Age, Service, Marital Status and Distribution of Policewomen, published in Valerie Redshaw's book, Tact and Tenacity.
Training for police women was five weeks in 1953, unlike the six months today.
Men trained for 10 weeks.
Here course in May 1953 focused on the law as it applied to women and children, fingerprinting and physical training.
Promotion prospects for women at that time were limited to the rank of constable and women were expected to leave the job when they married.
I remember my mother saying police shift work did not lend itself to romantic pursuits.
Lois left the police in 1958, found time to meet her husband- to-be at a Fernleaf Club dance on The Terrace, and married the following year. By the 1970s she was the mother of a Lower Hutt teenager herself.
- Hutt News
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