Policewomen focus of new initiatives

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 12:15 14/04/2014

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New Zealand policewomen 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," Bush said.

Feedback from policewomen, 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 was created in recognition of a need to recruit more women, particularly into leadership positions, Bush said.

The moves come after Dame Margaret Bazley's damning 2007 report stemming from a commission of inquiry into culture amid the ranks.

It found women were under-represented at the senior level and 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.

The force has 1700 women, but so far only three have served in the top rank of superintendent.

Tolley recounted the history of women in the force They were not allowed to join until 1941 and initially only single or widowed ladies were sought. They were distinguished by their "uniform" of civilian hats, gloves and handbags.

Tolley and Bush called for more women in leadership in police.

Tolley said part of the women's advisory group's role would be to help women focus on leadership positions and address what might be holding them back from getting the top jobs.

Bush said a culture of discrimination was not tolerated at any level and systems like police liaisons for women would let them report at district level if they experienced ill-treatment.

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

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