Searching for more women in blue

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 05:00 15/04/2014
Female police

WOMEN IN BLUE: Stars of TVNZ’s new reality show, from left, Constable Anne Napara, Constable Jacqui Rodger, Constable Patsy Little, Inspector Tracy Phillips, Constable Zoe Eginton, Sergeant Caroline Martin, and Constable Bridget Suckling.

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The police force is set on shaking any lingering perceptions of being a blokey "boys' club", with a new reality TV show called Women in Blue.

The TVNZ show, in the style of Police 10-7, is part of a gender-focused recruitment drive kickstarted by new commissioner Mike Bush yesterday, in the wake of Dame Margaret Bazley's damning 2007 report on an uneven culture within police ranks.

Her commission of inquiry found women were under-represented at senior levels, and that there was a culture of nepotism and discrimination.

Police set a series of five-year targets in response to the report, and a workplace survey last year showed it had made some headway, with fewer women reporting misconduct than in previous years.

However, 19 per cent of policewomen indicated having experienced or witnessed inappropriate workplace conduct, compared with 14.7 per cent of men, and 74 per cent of women felt the problem was not handled appropriately.

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

He and Police Minister Anne Tolley jointly called for more women to swell police ranks, and introduced a Women's Advisory Network to ensure women's careers progressed as smoothly as men's.

The number of women among the force of 8845 constables has increased by 46 per cent over the past 10 years, with women now accounting for nearly 20 per cent of that rank.

That was a long way from the first 10 policewomen chosen in 1941, Tolley said. They were recruited through advertisements for single or widowed ladies, and were distinguished by their uniform of civilian hats, gloves and handbags.

Today, three policewomen have held the top rank of superintendent but there was still plenty of room for more in senior roles, Bush said. "We have a long way to grow."

Women in Blue, produced by Eyeworks NZ, will star seven budding policewomen, including Sergeant Caroline Martin of Wellington and Hutt Valley Constables Jacqui Rodger and Zoe Eginton.

When Rodger was a girl she dreamed of being a teacher, but later "I used to watch the police cars whizz past on the way to Hutt jobs and think, ‘that looks like fun'."

Now she had her dream job - although she admitted she did not tell her parents all of her work stories as some could be a "bit gritty".

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- The Dominion Post

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