Louise Nicholas' life-changing experience mentoring police recruits
Louise Nicholas never dreamed she would be standing at the Royal New Zealand Police College watching a class of recruits graduate in her name.
The anti-rape activist was the patron of the latest class, Wing 290, meaning she was the boss, mentor and friend of the 36 new constables.
She attended their graduation on Thursday and was brought to tears when she presented them with their identification badges.
"It's been a life-changing experience for me and one I'll cherish," said the woman who accused four policemen of raping her when she was a teenager.
"I've seen them come in as these overwhelmed, scared little people ... and watched them grow and change so much."
A highlight was accompanying the recruits to Manfeild race track for the defensive driver training.
"We've had some great laughs. I've been restrained, sworn out, played the bad guy, interacted with them and been on the journey with them. It's been amazing, same for my family.
"I've had the run of the place while they've been here and I'm basically the boss. Although I wish they would write that down so I can pass it on to my husband!"
The officers Nicholas accused of rape were acquitted, but her case rocked the justice system, and a 2007 commission of inquiry forced top "coppers", as Nicholas calls them, to confront how they treated sexual violence victims.
She now advises police on rape cases and advocates on behalf of victims.
Her experience meant she never thought she would be at the police college, let alone involved in training new officers.
"[Me be] at police college? Never! Not in a million years.
"But there are lots of good coppers out there, and going forward is about making sure what happened will never happen again."
The 290 Louise Nicholas Recruit Wing was made up of an equal gender split, and 25 per cent were Maori.
Constable Shaun Murphy, who also graduated with a law degree this month, said having Nicholas as patron was inspiring.
"The fact that she can stand up and be here speaks volumes for her character. She's inspirational and has told us to always put the needs of the victims at the heart of what we do."
Murphy will join the Taupo police station.
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