Policewomen over the decades

Many women were responsible for forging the way in NZ Police and slowly making inroads into a male dominated workplace, tirelessly campaigning for women to be accepted into different operational areas of Police.

This is only a selection of some of our retired policewomen from the last 75 years and we will be updating these details over the next few weeks. If you would like to suggest a retired policewoman to profile, please contact us at 75years@police.govt.nz.

  • Edna Pearce

    Years of service: 
    1941 - 1966
    Rank reached: 
    Constable

    Edna Pearce was one of the first ten women to be selected to begin police training on June 3rd 1941. The recruits were personally selected from a large number of applicants by the Police Commissioner at the time, Denis Cummings. They had to be of superior education, have common sense, know shorthand and be able to type, as well as being be single or widowed and over the age of 25. Edna, a kindergarten teacher and keen gymnast met the criteria perfectly.

    After finishing her training Edna was posted to Auckland and attached to the detective branch. In the early days of working there she was confined to working on cases involving women and children. Like the rest of her intake she wasn't issued with a uniform, instead smart civilian dress was mandatory, complete with hats, gloves and handbags. In November of her first year Edna was the first policewomen to make an arrest.

    A highlight of her was when she was seconded to the Department of Internal Affairs to take charge of an internment camp for Japanese women and children at Pokeno, in Waikato. The internees were families of traders operating in the Pacific Islands. Her duties included teaching correspondence school, arranging medical treatment, ensuring adequate supplies of food and censoring correspondence.

    In August 1943 an attempt was made to transfer the internees to Australia by a Liberator aircraft. It crashed in the Mangere swamp and three women and four children were killed. Edna was called upon to identify the dead and the hospitalised survivors who were eventually returned to her care. Later that year she accompanied the group to Australia on the protected ship MV Wahine. Some of the Japanese women continued to correspond with her as they waited out the war in Australia. Their letters show how much they appreciated her care while interned in New Zealand.

    In 1944 Constable Pearce returned to her duties in Auckland. When policewomen went into uniform in December 1952 she was given the collar number “1”.  In 1954 she went to Hamilton as its first policewoman and remained there until she retired at 60 after completing 25 years’ service.

    Edna Pearce
  • Nancy Aitchison

    Years of service: 
    1941 - 1970

    In 1941 ten women were chosen from around the country as trainees to become New Zealand’s first ever policewomen. They started training at a depot in Newtown, Wellington and after completing their 3 month course, the ten women were sworn in as temporary Constables. Of her intake, Constable Nancy Aitchinson was the longest serving member, retiring in 1970 at age 60 after 29 years of service.

    After training Nancy and Constable Mollie Speakman were sent to Christchurch as the city’s first female police officers. As women weren't issued with uniforms in those days, and instead wore civilian clothing, it made them ideal for undercover work. They were utilised in seeking evidence of sly grogging, bookmaking as well as searching ships and opium dens for women.

    After 13 years at the Christchurch station she transferred to Napier, where she remained until she retired. During her time there she made a strong impression on future Inspector Joe Franklin. They had met prior to him joining Police, when she had enlisted him for his diving expertise during a case, as the police did not have specialist diver teams back then.

    In 1953 Nancy was awarded the Coronation Medal, one of 19 awarded to the New Zealand Police and one of just two to policewomen that year. In 1969 she was awarded her 28 year service clasp at the Christmas pay parade at the Napier Police Station and was reported as being ‘the oldest serving member of the Women’s Division of the Police in New Zealand.’

    After retiring Nancy returned to her hometown Dannevirke, but died not long after returning, following a long battle with breast cancer.

    Nancy Aitchison
  • Marie Storey

    Years of service: 
    1943 - 1947
    Rank reached: 
    Constable

    Marie Storey (nee Nixon), joined the New Zealand Police in 1943 as part of the 3rd intake of women. Her father had been a Senior Sergeant with Police and was the Editor of the Police Gazette. He had died just before she joined, but he had seen the first intake of women and had been very pleased with the idea of women in the Police.

    By the time Marie joined it was thought that it was better for experienced women to explain aspects of the job to the new trainees, so Marie anad the other female recruits in her intake were often given lectures and on-the-job training from women who had been in the job for a few years.

    During her time as a policewomen, Marie and the other women were often used as decoys to help catch offenders. She remembers one time being used as bait in Mount Victoria to catch a man who had been harassing women. She was tasked with walking back and forwards along a path waiting for the man to appear. On reaching the bottom of the track for the fifth time a cat walked out, startling Marie and itself, and sent them both running. Marie recalls that her male colleague was quite impressed at her speed in reaching the nearest lamp post.

    She was also involved in an operation to catch an Australian man who had been making obscene phone calls to women. The operation was a success and resulted in the arrest of a high-ranking Australian bandsman who was touring New Zealand at the time.

    Marie married and left the New Zealand Police in 1947 when she became pregnant with her first child.

    Marie Storey
  • Nora Crawford

    Years of service: 
    1943 - 1978
    Rank reached: 
    Detective

    Nora Crawford’s secondary education was mostly by correspondence and managed around the daily tasks of the family farm near Hawera. After completing a course at Massey University she began a career as a herd tester. In 1943 she became a member of the third intake of policewomen.

    Sh was posted to Auckland in March 1944. Her duties included dealing with ‘idle and disorderly’ women, investigating illegal bookmakers and sly-grogging, patrolling parks and cinemas, as well as helping the Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB) to interview female offenders, victims and witnesses. She proved to be particularly adept at the latter task.

    In 1955 her special interest in fraud and her skills at detection were recognised by the CIB and she was given the opportunity to work on cases alongside her male colleagues. This was a significant accomplishment at a time when many policemen resented the presence or promotion of women in the service.

    After attending a qualifying course at the New Zealand Police Training School,  Nora Crawford became the first policewoman to reach the rank of detective in 1958. Good natured, forthright and friendly she took pride in doing exactly the same job as the men. She was also given additional duties, including being designated as an escort and bodyguard for visiting dignitaries including Queen Elizabeth, in 1953, and Queen Sirikit of Thailand in 1962. In 1969 she was promoted to the CIB fraud squad.

    Nora retired after 23 years of investigative service with the CIB and her reputation as a very skilled fraud investigator led to a second career with bank card security. She was influential and active in a number of police-related groups during and after her police service. Nora was a foundation member of the New Zealand branch of the International Police Association and was involved in setting up the Auckland retired police officers’ club. 1985 she became patron of Recruit Wing 101 at the Royal New Zealand Police College, the first time a policewoman had been honoured.

  • Rosalie Sterritt

    Years of service: 
    1948 - 1985
    Rank reached: 
    Senior Constable

    Rosalie Sterritt  joined the New Zealand Police in 1948 as part of the fourth intake of women to be trained as police officers.

    Originally from Kaikoura, Rosalie and five others were sent to Auckland as temporary Constables after they graduated, where they worked for a year before being appointed permanently.

    Two years after joining the Police, Rosalie suffered a serious back injury during a search for a missing mental patient at One Tree Hill in Auckland. She had grabbed a branch while attempting to climb higher, which broke and caused her to fall. The accident and the damage caused by the fall was the start of an uphill battle for Rosalie to keep her job as a policewoman.

    Following her accident Rosalie had spinal surgery to repair her back in 1957. It took her a year recover and when she later returned to work she was assisnged office work because she couldn’t perform full duties. Later on, in 1959, there was a push to deem her medically unfit to work. Determined not to have her job taken from her Rosalie pursued Supreme Court action and won her case, keeping her job. However the Commissioner at the time successfully appealed the decision, but no further action was taken against Rosalie and she stayed with Police

    Rosalie later went on to become an Inquiry Officer and then an Inquest Officer before retiring in 1985. Since her retirement she has actively pursued her interests – which include scouting, music and woodworking. She has her own workshop for repairing and making items from wood and metal. Rosalie also has her own campervan and regularly takes it away on trips around the country. She recently moved into a new retirement home, which she chose based on the fact she was able to take her beloved campervan with her.

    Rosalie Sterritt
  • Betty Bennett

    Years of service: 
    1956 - 1970
    Rank reached: 
    Inspector

    On a day in 1955 Betty Bennett had two interviews for jobs. The first conducted by a sergeant at Auckland Police Station included taking the Oath of Office. When she said she would have to go to the other appointment she was told that she would have to give three months’ notice. This was an unusual beginning to a career which was to see her become the first policewoman to be promoted to Sergeant and later to Commissioned Officer.

    When she began her training to be a policewoman she was part of the first group to train with their male colleagues at the newTrentham Police Training School, and one of three Māori women in the class. Following her training she was posted to Auckland, where she she rapidly demonstrated her skills as a competent member of the Women’s Division. She was soon promoted to the rank of Detective in 1959.

    In 1960, when the Government Service Equal Pay Act was passed, there was much debate about the relative value of women’s work in the service. Women received just 80% of a male Constable’s pay. Qualifying for promotion, Betty unintentionally became the catalyst for an urgent review of policewomen’s pay. However Cabinet did not grant policewomen equal pay until 1965.

    Promoted to Sergeant 1961, she returned to uniform and was put in charge of Auckland Women’s Division. Her exceptional communication skills, practical and pragmatic approach to police tasks and sense of humour meant she quickly became a much admired “boss”.

    In 1962 she was awarded the British Empire Medal for her achievements and outstanding qualities of leadership. In 1966 she became the first policewoman to become a Commissioned Officer and was transferred as an Inspector to Police National Headquarters. Her first task was visiting centres where policewomen were employed to observe their duties and check on their general welfare.

    To Commissioner Urquhart later proposed the reinstatement of the Women’s Division with Inspector Bennett at its head, and promotion only available for women within it. Betty convinced other senior officers that policewomen had proved their worth and there was ample evidence that they were capable of any policing situation that might arise. Because of this, the proposal did not proceed.

    Betty later retired from Police in 1970.   

    Betty Bennett
  • Pam Sowter (nee Anderson)

    Years of service: 
    1956 - 1961
    Rank reached: 
    Constable

    Constable Pam Sowter (nee Anderson) joined the New Zealand Police in 1956. Out of the 100 trainees in her intake, only eight were women. Training took place at Trentham Military Camp, and they lived in an army barracks. The barracks which was quite primitive and they were split into three sections, each with its own tutor.

    Pam was the first policewoman to graudate at the top of her course, but it was unexpected and so on her certificate it said ‘Passed out first of HIS course’. After graduation she was assigned to Auckland, where the patrolling the CBD, Parnell, Newmarket and Ponsonby. When out on the beat had a set route they had to follow and they always patrolled with another policewoman.

    One night when on patrol with Val Keefe they decided not to walk over Grafton Bridge as they had been instructed, instead walking underneath the bridge and through the Domain. They managed to get themselves lost and ended up having to scramble up a clay bank into a factory yard to get out. When they eventually arrived back at the station they had to quickly think of a story to explain their bedraggled state.

    Pam still remembers the first public speech she made as a policewoman, when she was a guest speaker at the Blockhouse Bay Plunket Mothers Club. Not having any experience in public, she was very nervous and had carefully written her speech outlining her duties as a policewoman. However once she got up to speak she realised, to her horror, she’d left her entire speech at home. Pam decided to take the bull by the horns and told the women she’d forgotten her notes and to just ask her questions instead. It turned out to be a success and she never again suffered from nerves when speaking to a crowd.

    Pam eventually married fellow police officer Norm Sowter. After their marriage Pam stayed with Police for a short time, but had to retire when she became pregnant. Her three sons were also sworn members of the police and two of them are still serving.

    Pam Sowter (nee Anderson)
  • Valerie Redshaw

    Years of service: 
    1962 – 1963
    Rank reached: 
    Constable

    Prior to joining the New Zealand Police in 1962 Valerie Redshaw had been in the London Metropolitan Police. Posted to the Women’s Division at Auckland Central she served there until she married.

    After marrying, Valeria left Police to have children and taught at various schools in Otago and the Bay of Plenty for a while. She later attempted to re-join the police in the mid-1970s, but was told the police did not employ women with children.

    In 1984 she became an Education Officer at the Royal New Zealand Police College, with the responsibility for training youth aid officers, recruits and contributing to senior and commissioned officer courses. This was followed by a period of seven years designing curriculum for all police training, followed by a two and a half year secondment to the New Zealand Customs Service as their National Manager Training and Development.

    Keen to advance the status of policewomen and promote training, she was the police representative on a number of public sector bodies including the EEO Advisory Group, the Public Sector Training Organisation and the Government Committee for Suffrage Centennial Year.  She also served on the academic board of the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand.

    In 1991 she was given the task of organising the celebration of 50 years of women in policing. This inspired her to document women’s history in the service. Her book, Tact and Tenacity, was published in 2007.

    In 1993, Valerie, was awarded the Suffrage Centennial Medal for services to policewomen and in 2007 she was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to education. Post policing, Valerie contributed to the development of the Border Service in East Timor receiving the East Timor and New Zealand Operational Service Medals. A Justice of the Peace for 40 years she ended her working career spending six years with the Royal Federation of New Zealand Justices’ Associations as their Education Officer.

    She regrets not being able to return to operational policing in the 1970s after she had her children, or in the 1980s because of age restrictions, but is pleased to have been able to contribute to changes in policy that have improved conditions for other policewomen.

    Valerie Redshaw
  • Dorothy Waymouth

    Years of service: 
    1963 – 1975
    Rank reached: 
    Senior Sergeant

    Dorothy joined the Police in 1963, one of four women out of 100 trainees. After coming second in her Wing she was posted to Auckland and joined the Women’s Division under Betty Bennett.

    She first moved into the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) to fill a temporary vacancy. She enjoyed working there but was unable to stay because the unit had their quota of 3 women already.

    Dorothy was the first woman to be transferred to a suburban station, in Newmarket, but found there wasn’t a lot to do there. She managed to get transferred back to CIB in 1970, and was then promoted into the Uniform Branch as a Sergeant then a Senior Sergeant. At that time there was no training for these roles.

    In 1973 she was appointed Officer in Charge (O/C) Youth Aid Section but left the Police when she had her first child in 1975.

    She admires how women joining the Police today are able to do all the physical training required to be a Police Officer, as it wasn’t nearly so demanding in her day.

  • Pauline Joblin, QSM

    Years of service: 
    1964 - 1987
    Rank reached: 
    Detective

    Pauline Joblin joined the police in 1964 at a time when male attitudes towards policewomen were beginning to improve. While some still saw women with their 'inferior strength' a liability, others were more accepting because they were doing a good job and did not shirk the more unpleasant tasks.

    One dangerous and unpleasant task was acting as a decoy to catch abortionists. On one occasion Pauline, using an assumed name, made arrangements to get an abortion from a women who was also running a legitimate business – a home for the elderly. When she arrived at the address she paid £25 in marked notes for the procedure. While the woman was collecting the equipment she went to the window hoping that the watching detectives would see her and join her. Unfortunately no one was there.

    When the woman returned she said she needed to use the toilet. She then climbed out of the window and phoned the Takapuna police from a neighbouring house. A message was radioed to the unseen Criminal Investigation Branch who finally entered the home and arrested the woman almost an hour after Pauline had arrived at the address.

    During the late 1970s Pauline was a Youth Aid officer. The occupation of Bastion Point presented many hours of work for Auckland police. The government had decided to sub-divide the land for private housing. The Ngati-Whatua people claimed ownership and occupied the land for several months. There were women and several children on site.

    She was one of the 600 police officers forming a cordon around the camp after the Supreme Court issued an injunction for the protesters to leave the land. It took all day to clear the protest camp site and there were 222 arrests. Pauline had sweets in her pocket that she shared with the children but was horrified when a three-year old wrapped a stone in a sweet paper to throw at the policemen.

    Pauline served for 23 years initially in Wellington then Auckland. She was awarded the Queen's Service Medal  for her work that included working tirelessly for the welfare of Police families. She was a chairperson of the Police Benevolent Fund and served on the committee of the Centennial Trust.

    Pauline Joblin, QSM
  • Angela Harwood, QSM

    Years of service: 
    1964 – Mid 80’s
    Rank reached: 
    Inspector

    Prior to immigrating to New Zealand in 1964 Angela had been a policewomen in Birmingham, England. She was initially posted to Wellington where she found the work very limited. She remembers how amazed people were when she and another policewoman arrested a burglar.

    Angela was the first policewoman in Porirua, and later, in Tauranga. In 1968 on the day of the Wahine disaster she was assigned duty on the Eastbourne side of Wellington Harbour. Besides assisting survivors she helped in the sad task of retrieving bodies of those who had drowned. She also spent some days sorting and recording property that had been recovered and reuniting it with their owners.

    In 1969 she transferred to Auckland to fill a woman's vacancy in the Youth Aid Section, where she found her niche working with young people. After a period working in Tauranga, Angela returned to Auckland to continue in Youth Aid. She was then promoted to Senior Sergeant in charge of the Youth Aid Section.

    1979 ended on a sombre note with the loss of the Air New Zealand DC10 on Mount Erebus. While no policewomen took part in the recovery process several were involved in the identification phase of ‘Operation Overdue’.  Angela was appointed Officer-in-Charge of Inquests. Her responsibility was to ensure that bodies matched up with particulars of passengers who had been on the flight. Because several passengers were from overseas she often worked with interpreters when preparing files for the Coroner. She attended the Court for all the cases.

    When community policing became the principal focus of the service it provided an area of specialisation where policewomen could use their communication skills to benefit others. Angela was promoted to Inspector and appointed Community Relations Coordinator for the Manukau District. Her job was to liaise with other departments, organisations and ethnic groups, fostering good relations with them and the police. She was also responsible for overseeing Community Constables, Youth Aid section, crime prevention and programmes in schools as well as facilitating Neighbourhood Watch in the area.

    Always keen to promote the advance of women in the service she chaired the Auckland Committee for the celebration of 50 years of policewomen in New Zealand. In 1981 she was awarded the QSM for services to young people and the handicapped.

    Angela Harwood, QSM
  • Marilyn Stobie

    Years of service: 
    1965 – 1989
    Rank reached: 
    Detective Sergeant

    Marilyn Stobie began her service with the New Zealand Police in 1965 as a temporary Constable. Two years later she became permanent and was posted to the Women’s Division at Auckland Central Police Station. The following year she was transferred to Otahuhu, where she was one of only two policewomen. Her duties included enquiries and serving summonses, executing warrants and assisting the Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB) interviewing women victims of sexual violence.

    Marilyn married a policeman and left the police for seven years. In 1976 she applied to re-join and in little more than a week she found herself in Rotorua back on duty. This posting was brief as she was soon transferred to the surveillance team in Wellington. She found this a lonely task as she wasn’t supposed to communicate with other officers.

    Following her time in Wellington, the majority of the rest of her police career was spent in Hamilton where she covered a full range of duties mostly in the CIB. Her experiences there include hostage negotiation, homicide clerk duties, medic for the Armed Offenders Squad and Prosecutions. She loved her work with the CIB so much that, although she qualified as a Sergeant, she postponed the rank for a while as it meant returning to the uniform branch. She devoted a total of 12 years to criminal investigation.

    In 1986 she left Hamilton for Ngaruawahia to be Senior Sergeant Officer-in-Charge of the station there. Having a woman in charge was unusual for the time and a testament to her experience, and showed the regard in which she was held. She later retired in 1989. When asked to name highlights of her career she could not as she loved every minute of it.

    Marilyn Stobie
  • Robyn Brand

    Years of service: 
    1967 - 1968
    Rank reached: 
    Constable

    Constable Robyn Brand joined the New Zealand Police in 1967. She had been in the Metropolitan Police in London for a year before she moved to New Zealand and joined the Police here.

    Robyn was on duty during the Wahine disaster, spending over 12 hours in the morgue that night as all the bodies were brought. She says the processes have changed and developed so much since then, but on that night it was ‘fly by the seat of our pants stuff’. Most bodies were hard to identify, they worked continuously through the night and then were on shift the following night. Back in then there was also no counselling for police staff after tragic events like that.

    Looking back Robyn says “it’s always made me proud that I helped people. I have a strong sense of right and wrong and believed I needed to stand up for the society I believed we could be, joining Police helped me do that. Also, it’s what I knew after working for the Met in London.”

    In 1968 Robyn became pregnant with her first child and had to leave the Police. After leaving Robyn had she ahd two more children and she focused her time on them for a while, before going into various part time jobs. When the family moved to Tauranga she became a real estate agent.

    Two of her children followed in her footsteps and joined NZ Police. Her daughter Alison is an Inspector in Counties Manukau, and one of her sons is a Detective Sergeant in the North Shore in Auckland. Robyn’s husband was also a policeman for 38 years. She has seven grandkids, six of them are girls and she wonders if one of them might follow in the family footsteps and become a police officer one day too.

    Robyn says the young women in Police today are amazing and the New Zealand public is so lucky to have them. 

  • Jackie Cantley

    Years of service: 
    1972 - 1978
    Rank reached: 
    Constable

    Jackie served in the New Zealand Police between 1972 and 1978, as well as a temporary return in 1981.

    During a very cold winter in 1976, when a skirt was still a mandatory part of a policewoman’s uniform, Jackie would wear her husband’s trousers to work to keep warm when working the late shift. At the time Senior Staff were debating whether to allow women to wear pants, so when Jackie was visited by the Duty Inspector from Central he advised her that none of the other women in town had received pants yet. Fortunately, her Sectional Sergeant was more practical so she continued to wear the pants.

    A couple of years after leaving the Police Jackie returned to duty temporarily as a Constable, to give assistance during the 1981 Springbok Tour. In 1986 she became a non-sworn member of the Hamilton and Morrinsville Police Stations, where she worked until a restructuring in 2012.

    Jackie was the first non-sworn member of the New Zealand Police to receive a silver merit award. She and her husband, Allan Cantley, received the award for their actions during the 1993 Morrinsville Station Siege, when Larry Hammond barged into the station and took several hostages while armed with a crossbow, knives and 14 homemade explosives.

  • Paula Stevens

    Years of service: 
    1972 - 2007
    Rank reached: 
    Inspector

    Inspector Paula Stevens joined the New Zealand Police in 1972.

    Paula started her career in Dunedin, after completing her Police training at Trentham. She worked there on frontline general duties until she was promoted to Sergeant in 1978 and moved to Wellington.

    After working in Wellington for 3 years she transferred to the West Coast, where she was Greymouth’s first female sergeant. During her time at the Greymouth station she received the Commissioner’s Certificate of Merit for dedication and skill in controlling the rescue of a small fishing vessel which foundered crossing the Grey River Bar.

    In 1986 Paula was promoted to Senior Sergeant while working in Palmerston North, and in 1990 she was again promoted to Inspector, while in Wellington. In 1993 she moved to Christchurch and worked as a Shift Commander, and then later the Operational Services Manager.

    After moving to Christchurch Paula took the Armed Offenders Squad (AOS) course and passed with flying colours. She then commanded the Christchurch AOS until she was appointed as the Southern Special Tactics Group (STG) Commander, based in Christchurch, where she worked for almost 8 years. Paula was the first woman appointed to the AOS and STG Command roles.

    in 2000 Paula was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal in the New Year Royal Honours List, in recognition for her dedication to the service and her excellent operational and management skills. Later on that year she was deployed to East Timor as the New Zealand Police contingent and the nature of her work led to her receiving a New Zealand Police Commissioner’s Silver Merit Award in 2002. Later on, in 2003, she was deployed the Solomon Islands.

    In 2005 Paula returned to Police National Headquarters where she worked in the Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police (PICP) Secretariat until she resigned from police at the end of 2007. During her time with PICP she developed programmes for member services in conjunction with UNAIDS and she helped develop the PICP Women’s Advisory Network, involving all 21 countries.

    Paula Stevens
  • Carole Tipler

    Years of service: 
    1972 - 2014
    Rank reached: 
    Detective

    Detective Carole Tipler served the New Zealand Police for 42 years until her retirement in 2014.

    She joined in 1972 and she graduated first in her Wing. After graduation she served in Lower Hutt, Auckland and Henderson, before returning to her home region of Taranaki.

    Throughout her career with the Police Carole worked in a variety of areas, including crime prevention, records, personnel, Criminal Intelligence Section, traffic and as an Arms Officer. She also worked a Metropolitan Police Officer while living in England. Her ambition was to join the Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB) but was delayed by the Springbok Tour and becoming a mother. Twenty five years after completing the induction course, she finally joined the CIB in 2003.

     

    Carole retired from the New Zealand Police in 2014 and has since volunteered in Nepal at Kathmandu’s Pashupati Temple, which helps care for the elderly and helpless, and at a school in the Gorkha District, which was the centre of the earthquake that rocked Nepal in April last year.

    Carole Tipler
  • Ali Stevenson

    Years of service: 
    1973 - 1987
    Rank reached: 
    Constable

    In 1973 Police were understaffed in Auckland city and the Mayor at the time, Sir Dove Meyer Robinson, was desperate to get more staff to combat the high crime rate. The Government approved the need for more police in the area, which led to the training o Wing 120 at an old teachers college in Ardmore, South Auckland.

    Ali Stevenson was one of 13 women recruited to be a part of this wing. Inspector Bill Shanks was enlisted to be their Commandant and he affectionately dubbed the new female trainees as his ‘Dolly Belles’.

    Ali thoroughly enjoyed her time at Police College. Close to the college was a bar at the nearby Military Camp, which was like forbidden fruit to the recruits because they weren’t allowed to leave campus during the weeknights.

    One night Ali recalls a group of drunk male recruits decided to pull the fire alarm as a prank, but they didn’t realise the alarm went straight through to the Papakura Fire Station. Ten minutes later three fire trucks turned up looking for a fire. When the Commandant finally awoke he had to apologise to the firemen for the false alarm and proceeded to drag all the recruits out in their pyjamas to reprimand them. Fortunately, the next day it became evident that none of the women had been involved, so only the men were punished.

    When Ali completed her training she was sent to Auckland Central Police Station under the supervision of Sergeant Ross Meurant. Ali’s first duty as a cop was the late shift walking up and down Karangahape Road, which opened her eyes to the seamier side of life. After a misunderstanding with the owner of a Strip Club, who Ali had thought at first was a just a friendly business owner, an amused Sergeant Meurant gave Ali a rundown of the seedier businesses in the area. Ali recalls his lesson as ‘a 101 on Dens of Iniquity’.

    Ali featured in the news when she first wore the newly issued trousers while on duty at the races. She hadn’t worn the jacket as well and got in a bit of trouble when she got back to the Station.

    Ali later went on to become a Radio Operator for the South Auckland District based at Auckland Central. She then worked in the CIB reception for a few months before retiring in 1987 after 14 years of service.

    Ali Stevenson
  • Cushla Watson

    Years of service: 
    1973 - Late 80’s
    Rank reached: 
    Detective

    It was 10 July 1985 when the Rainbow Warrior sunk at its moorings at Marsden Wharf in Auckland, the victim of two explosive devices set on her hull. Later it was discovered that it was the French government that had committed the act of terrorism in New Zealand that had also taken the life of a crew member. It is believed that at least 13 members of the French security and armed forces were involved in the incident.

    Cushla Watson joined the Police in 1973 and by time of this event was she a seasoned and experienced detective. She was an integral part of the investigative team and worked the case from day one. Ultimately just two members of the French team, Major Alain Marfat and Captain Dominique Prieur (posing as Sophie and Alain Turenge) were arrested and held to account.

    Detective Cushla Watson was the first policewoman to be sent out of New Zealand with an investigative brief. During the course of her enquiries she visited Switzerland to check on the legitimacy of the Turenge passports. Claiming to have been issued in Lyon, France they proved to be fraudulent. She then made enquiries in France, where her investigations were scrutinised and she was unable to conduct her own interviews. It was clear that French Police actions were being controlled by higher authority.

    In England, with the cooperation of the Metropolitan Police, she was able to link the purchase of the Zodiac boat and Yamaha motor used to plant the explosive devices to Gerald Andries, one of the crew on the Ouvéa, the yacht purported to have dropped the Turenge couple off on the New Zealand coast.

    Cushla had postponed having her family while establishing her career. Eventually she took maternity leave and produced two sons. She wanted to return to work but full-time was difficult. She and another Detective put forward a proposal to job share, however flexible employment was not an option. After battling bureaucracy and the then pedantic attitudes of the police administration both women resigned and the service lost two competent and very experienced detectives.

    Cushla Watson
  • Pauline Thurston

    Years of service: 
    1974 - 1991

    Pauline joined the New Zealand Police in 1974.

    She spent five years in Palmerston North before moving to Auckland, serving in Otahuhu and then later at the airport. She spent a harrowing few months at Auckland hospital mortuary as part of the team tasked with the identification of victims of the Erebus disaster. Taking leave without pay Pauline spent some months in Australia. On her return to Police she was sent to Tauranga, where she spent the next five years.

    By 1989, as a competent and experienced Police Officer, she was selected along with two other policewomen to join the team of 32 police members selected to go to Namibia. This was the first time New Zealand policewomen had served overseas.

    In Namibia fierce fighting between the local police and guerrillas had threatened the United Nations (UN) mission. The New Zealand police were there in a peacekeeping capacity but that did not lessen the dangers of working there, where the possibility of actual military or guerrilla action was very high. Their principal task was to observe the work of the South West African Police and accompany them as they discharged their duties, as well as attending all political meetings and rallies. Pauline found it interesting working with police of other nationalities especially noting their reaction to working with women as of the 1500 international police there, only 18 were female.

    The Namibian people were pleased to see the New Zealand contingent. Some 70% of the population was illiterate and many lived in poverty. Pauline said that people had so little that they would take fruit for the children when they visited settlements. This proved to be a positive relationship building exercise.

    21 March 1990 was declared Independence Day, and this ended one of the largest and most complex operations that the UN had ever put into the field. The three policewomen who participated in this exercise were all posted to different areas and did not see much of each other until they came together for the presentation of the United Nations medal. All thought that they had done a good job and that the experience would be a highlight of their careers.

    Pauline Thurston