Police recruiting for diversity

ROB KIDD
Last updated 05:00 14/10/2012

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With an ageing police force in danger of losing touch with an increasingly multicultural population, police have launched a $450,000 recruitment campaign.

The advertising drive kicked off a couple of months ago and was specifically aimed at attracting young leaders from a wide range of ethnicities.

Though numbers of Maori, Pacific Island and Asian police have risen over the past decade, the proportion of non-Pakeha officers has not changed significantly.

Police believe the new campaign is set to change that as the stereotype of a white, male workplace is lifted.

As well as traditional advertising, acting general manager public affairs Superintendent Dave Trappitt said street artwork around Auckland had also been used to attract young people from diverse backgrounds and it appeared to be working.

He said 2500 people had taken a recruitment seminar since the launch of the campaign, which was 27 per cent higher than the same period in 2011.

"The response from potential applicants has been excellent, with 32 per cent of recruitment seminars being taken by women, 14 per cent by Maori, 11 per cent Asian and 13 per cent by Pasifika."

Rakesh Naidoo, Police national strategic ethnic adviser and the first Asian to reach the rank of inspector, said the need for ethnic minorities to join the police in Auckland was particularly strong with more than a third of Aucklanders born outside the country.

Some people came to New Zealand from cultures in which police corruption was rife and Naidoo said it was about informing them that things were different here.

Christchurch constable Phil Goto joined the police in 2008 and is still the only indigenous African on the force.

When he came to the country 10 years ago from Zimbabwe he said he was suspicious of police to the extent that when a "very friendly" officer offered him a lift from the airport to his hotel he declined because he thought he may be arrested.

Police college was a challenge for 46-year-old Goto, mainly because he could not swim, something he said probably held back a lot of migrants.

However, with extra lessons he overcame the barrier and was appointed ethnic and Pacific liaison officer for the Canterbury district in 2010.

While it was important to have a wide range of cultures represented within the police, Goto said they had to get there on merit.

"I didn't just get into the police because I'm black, I got in there because I made the grade."

Avondale Constable Manreet Bassi recently celebrated her first year in the police and said she looked forward to going to work every day.

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The 21-year-old acknowledged there was often pressure on young Asian people to go to university and the police was not necessarily seen as a viable career option.

Bassi - the only woman in her section - said there were dozens of different career paths within the force and said speaking in schools gave her the chance to dispel some myths about being a police officer.

By June next year police are looking to recruit up to 240 new frontline staff.

CHANGING FACES

Constabulary ethnic make up – August 2012 (August 2002) NZ European/Pakeha 71.5% (81.2%) European 16.4% (15.6%) Maori 11.5% (11.5%) Pacific 4.6% (3.4%) Asian 2.2% (0.6%) Other 0.4% (0.5%) SINCE 2002 53% increase in the number of female officers 31% increase in the number of Maori officers 87% increase in the number of Pacific Island officers 394% increase in the number of Asian officers At current attrition rates 26% of police will be 50+ by 2019, 60% will be 40+

- Sunday Star Times

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