Women in different roles and from diverse backgrounds

Women are now able to work in so many different areas of Policing. From Forensics to being to a dog handler, or working aboard the Lady Liz on Wellington Harbour, women are working everywhere. They also come to Police from a variety of backgrounds and cultures allowing us to work more closely with the communities we serve.

  • Karen Vaughan

    Current rank: 
    Senior Constable
    Current role: 
    Senior Prosecutor, Porirua

    In 2000, Constable Karen Vaughan was an experienced member of the Child Abuse team in Wellington, when the Crown Solicitor requested that she travel to Auckland to assist with some interviewing. Kent (UK) police had commenced an investigation into allegations of rape on Pitcairn Island in the Central Pacific Ocean. The young girl at the centre of the investigation had been moved to New Zealand for her own safety and for further inquiries to be made. Pitcairn is best known for its population, many of whom are direct descendants of Tahitian women and sailors that escaped to the island after the mutiny on the British ship The Bounty in 1789.

    Karen interviewed the girl who claimed that she had been sexually abused on a number of occasions and told of other girls who had received the same treatment. ‘Operation Unique’ was born, resulting in Karen and her Kent associates subsequently conducting further inquiries in Pitcairn, Australia, Norfolk Island, Los Angeles and the United Kingdom, as many of the alleged victims had moved from the island.

    The statements of complaint from the alleged victims resulted in the identification of 30 potential suspects and 96 charges were laid. In 2001 Karen travelled to Pitcairn to examine 50 crime scenes and to assist with the drafting of supporting information and 120 indictments relating to the alleged offences. Sworn in as a police officer by the Governor of Pitcairn, Karen also assisted the Public Prosecutor to prepare submissions to the New Zealand government, which ultimately resulted in the Pitcairn court hearings being conducted in New Zealand. After much legal argument over whether Britain had authority over the island and its people, there were a number of successful prosecutions.

    For Karen, a seemingly brief trip to Auckland for an interview became an almost six year saga. When the Pitcairn investigation began, Karen’s children were aged two, three and five, so Police would not have been able to utilise Karen’s special skills without the strong support of her family. During the investigation, Karen spent 670 nights away from home, took more than 250 international and domestic flights, visited Pitcairn six times and Australia 12 times, as well as the United Kingdom, Norfolk Island and cities throughout New Zealand. Each Pitcairn trip took almost a month and involved long days in small vessels, in often rough sea conditions.

    After a period as a family violence coordinator, Karen is now a Senior Prosecutor based in Porirua.

  • Sarah Stirling

    Year joined: 
    Current rank: 
    Current role: 
    Teaching and Learning Advisor, RNZPC

    Sergeant Sarah Stirling first joined the New Zealand Police in 1982.

    In Sarah’s Wing at Police College, there were 23 new recruits – 11 men and 12 women. Because of this, Sarah says that when she graduated she naively believed she would be treated as an equal by her colleagues. However, as she and her fellow female police officers were the minority - with only 300 women to 5,000 men - they were referred to as the “Women’s Division” or “WDs”.

    Sarah says that the first time she felt like an equal to her male colleagues was when she was the only woman on Team Policing and was able to dress exactly the same as the men, including being able to wear a helmet. Not being immediately singled out as the “Women’s Division” both by the public and fellow police officers was liberating for Sarah.

    During her career with the Police Sarah has worked in a variety of roles, including District Trainer, Recruit Instructor, Sectional Sergeant, Enquiry Constable and Communicator. Currently Sarah is a Teaching and Learning Advisor at the Royal New Zealand Police College in Wellington. She is also the Vice Chair of the RNZPC Police Association.

    Sarah is also a member of the Police College’s branch of the Women’s Advisory Network. She runs the Women in our Wings initiative, working with female recruits to educate them on the support networks available to them, the challenges they’ll face in the job, and how to identify solutions to those challenges. Sarah says it is really rewarding being able to help empower new female recruits to believe they can take on any role within Police.

    Sarah Stirling
  • Anne Corbett

    Year joined: 
    Current role: 
    Northern Communications Section Manager

    Ann Corbett joined the New Zealand Police in 1970 after completing her training as part of Wing 46.

    Ann worked in Auckland until 1971 and then transferred to Whangarei, where she remained until she went on maternity leave in 1980. Following her maternity leave Ann was based again at Whangarei until 1987. In 1990 she became the Watch House Assistant at the Glen Innes Police station in Auckland.

    Since 1996 Ann has been based at the Northern Communications Centre. During her time there she has progressed from Communicator, to Dispatcher, to Team Leader, and is now a Section Manager and has reached the rank of Senior Sergeant.

    In 2005 Anne spent a year in the Solomon Islands working with communications staff as part of the RAMSI mission, which aimed to work with the Solomon Islands government and people to build a secure, well-governed and prosperous nation. Ann was there during a period of rioting at election time in 2006.

    Anne Corbett
  • Wendy Pickering

    Year joined: 
    Current rank: 
    Senior Sergeant
    Current role: 
    District Victim Coordinator, Waitemata

    Senior Sergeant Wendy Pickering joined the New Zealand Police in 1991.

    During her time with Police, Wendy has worked in a variety of roles, including Search and Rescue (SAR). Wendy says one of her scariest - and most exhilarating - moments in SAR was being flown over the Tararua ranges in an Iroquois as part of an exercise. The chopper was flying about a thousand feet off the ground, and Wendy was dangling out the open window, strapped in by only a seatbelt – which at the time she says did not seem like enough!

    Wendy has worked in a variety of roles whilst a Sergeant including the Public Safety Teams, Family Violence and O/C of a Community Policing Station.
    She has also worked as a Detective in the Criminal Investigations Branch, investigating and apprehending offenders. She says it was satisfying to be able to bring offenders to justice and provide closure for victims.

    Until recently Wendy was the District Shift Commander for the Waitemata District. As a District Shift Commander she was responsible for the operational running of the shift, which includes co-ordinating and overseeing serious incidents. She was also responsible for the command and control of emergency incidents. Wendy is now the District Victim Coordinator, still based in Waitemata.

    Wendy Pickering
  • Shelley Ross

    Year joined: 
    Current rank: 
    Detective Sergeant
    Current role: 
    CIB Tactical Crime Unit Supervisor, Manawatu Area

    Detective Sergeant Shelley Ross first joined the New Zealand Police in 1995.

    Being an investigator is Shelley’s passion and in 1999 she joined the Criminal Investigation Branch. During her time with the CIB she has worked in many of the different areas, including Homicide, Serious Assaults, Kidnapping, Arson, Aggravated Robbery, Child Abuse and Adult Sexual Assault.

    Her hardest cases include the Lundy homicide, in which the graphic nature of the scene made her question her future with the CIB, and a murder of a two year old girl who was the same age Shelley’s daughter was at the time.

    Currently she so attached to the Tactical Crime Unit of the Manawatu Area CIB, based at Palmerston North Station. She is the supervisor of a team of four investigators and they investigate volume crime, including Burglary, Car theft and motor vehicle theft. They also deal with offenders who have relapsed into their past criminal behaviour, including those on Warrants to Arrest and Parole Recall Warrants

    Earlier this year Shelley celebrated 21 years with the Police. Shelley juggles her career as a policewomen with being a mum to her two daughters Jaime and Jorja.

    Shelley Ross
  • Leairne Dow

    Year joined: 
    Current rank: 
    Detective Senior Sergeant
    Current role: 
    Metro Crime Squad Operations Manager, Canterbury

    Detective Senior Sergeant Leairne Dow joined the New Zealand Police in 1998.

    Leairne has spent her entire career based in Canterbury. When she first graduated from Police College, she started off in Papanui in I-car. Two years later she joined the Police Negotiating Team (PNT).

    There are 17 PNT teams nationwide and their role is to help resolve high risk situations peacefully. These situations include armed or barricaded offenders, people who are suicidal or in crisis, kidnappings, protests, cell extractions, search warrants or terrorist incidents.

    When Leairne first joined the PNT she worked on suicide threats as a secondary communicator. She says during her time as a negotiator she’s been in cars with people holding a knife; on ledges, balconies and cliff faces with suicidal people; and has climbed through earthquake-abandoned properties in Canterbury – but she’s never felt unsafe thanks to the safety protocols that PNT has in place.

    PNT is an on-call roster, so it runs alongside regular police work. In addition to working for PNT, Leairne has worked for various CIB squads and is currently the Operations Manager for the Metro Crime Squad in Canterbury.

  • Paula Tanuvasa

    Year joined: 
    Current rank: 
    Current role: 
    Launch Drew, Wellington Maritime Unit

    Constable Paula Tanuvasa first joined the New Zealand Police in 2001.

    Paula spent her first five years with the Police on the frontline, before transferring to Forensic Photography. In 2011, she was sent to Christchurch as part of the Disaster Victim Identification Team after the February earthquake.

    In 2014 Paula became the Wellington Maritime Unit’s first female crew member aboard the Lady Elizabeth IV. Growing up diving and fishing in the Bay of Plenty town of Katikati, as well as owning her own boat, provided Paula with the experience she needed for the role. Constable Alison Campkin, a senior launch master with the Auckland police maritime unit, is the only other female maritime police officer on New Zealand waters.

    Currently the majority of Paula’s work is training, as she has only been with the unit for two years. Training includes navigation work and practicing helming with the Sergeant in Charge. She is also occasionally out on the beat for general policing duties.

    Outside of work, Paula enjoys catching up with family and friends and spending time with her teenage daughter. She still enjoys fishing, as well as taking her dog Scruff for a walk and getting her camera out to take photos.

    Constable Paula Tanuvasa
  • Tania Kingi

    Year joined: 
    Current rank: 
    Current role: 
    Sylvia Park Community Policing Manager

    Sergeant Tania Kingi joined the New Zealand Police in 2002 as part of Wing 203. She was one of 11 women to join that year, out of a total 78 recruits.

    Tania was first inspired to become a Police Officer after an experience with Police as a child. Her father was arrested numerous times, and during one of his arrests Tania remembers thinking that the Police were the most amazing people in the world - and that when she grew up she wanted to help vulnerable people like they did. Tania’s experiences as a child have also helped her to be able to relate and interact with offenders who have had similar experiences or come from similar backgrounds.

    Tania’s first placement after graduating from the Police College was Traffic at Harlech House in Otahuhu. From there she went to Emergency Response in Manakau, worked in Youth Education at Otara and rotated through different roles in the Criminal Investigations Branch.

    Tania was then was promoted to Sergeant and worked frontline in the Public Safety Team in Auckland City before running the Tactical Crime Unit at Mt Wellington. In November 2014 she was deployed to the Solomon Islands for six months. Returning from the Solomon Islands she worked briefly in the Auckland Field Training Unit and the District Command Centre before returning to Mt Wellington Station to run the Sylvia Park Community Policing team, where she is currently based.

    Tania has recently purchased a motorcycle and is learning how to ride it for commuting to work, and she has also recently purchased a new home. She shares custody of her twin boys and daughter with their dad and they helped her train for the marathon she recently completed.

    Tania Kingi
  • Mandeep Kaur

    Year joined: 
    Current rank: 
    Current role: 
    Ethnic Peoples Community Relations Officer

    Constable Mandeep Kaur joined the New Zealand Police in 2004.

    During her time with the New Zealand Police, Mandeep has worked as a Frontline Officer, in Road Policing, Family Violence, the Investigation Support Unit, Neighbourhood Policing and Community Policing.

    Mandeep was the first female Indian-born officer in the New Zealand Police. Her journey to become a police officer came with many personal and cultural barriers, which she faced while raising her two children on her own. However she is proud to have overcome these challenges to be where she is today.

    Mandeep’s religion is a big part of her life and she regularly worships at Gurudwara, the Hindu temple in Counties Manukau. She has also formed a New Zealand Police Bhangra-dancing group and they performed in their Police uniforms at Aotea Square’s Diwali Festival last year.

    Currently Mandeep works as an Ethnic Peoples Community Relations Officer, based at Henderson Police Station in Waitemata. Her role involves attending community meetings, hosting media programmes, visiting family violence victims and attending to any other matters where there is a need for ethnic or cultural advice.

    Mandeep Kaur
  • Leah Everest

    Year joined: 
    Current rank: 
    Senior Sergeant
    Current role: 
    CVIU Area Manager, Auckland

    Senior Sergeant Leah Everest started her career as a Motorcycle Officer with the Ministry of Transport (MOT) in Wellington in 1990. She was in the last group of Motorcycle Officers to graduate - the group after her graduated as Patrol Officers, due to the merge with Police in 1992.

    During her time with Police, Leah has worked in many different areas, including as a Traffic Officer, a Community Constable, various instructor roles at the Royal New Zealand Police College, in Communications, and as an Officer in Charge of Youth Aid.

    For the last five years Leah has been working at the Commercial Vehicle Investigation Unit (CVIU) and is currently the Area Manager.  The CVIU deals with everything to do with the commercial vehicle industry, including trucks, buses, taxis, couriers, mobile cranes, and mobile homes.

    One of the things that makes Leah proud as a police officer is being able to support the changing conversation around diversity within Police. When she first joined the MOT she was a single parent in a same sex relationship, which was never spoken about. In 2016 she was able to march in the Auckland Pride Parade for the first time in her uniform, which was an incredibly proud moment for Leah and her family.

    Outside of work Leah is a keen road cyclist and mountain biker. She has a seven year old daughter Alex and they enjoy scootering around central Auckland together, as well as getting ice cream and practicing guitar together at home. Leah also has an older son, Mitchell.

    Leah Everest
  • Carmen Stewart

    Year joined: 
    Current rank: 
    Current role: 
    Inquest Officer, Wellington Central

    Constable Carmen Stewart has been a member of New Zealand Police since 2007.

    Before joining Police, Carmen had a varied career. She started as a St John Ambulance Service Volunteer before becoming a full-time member in 1995. She then became a funeral director and embalmer. She credits these jobs with shaping her choice of policing as a career as they sparked a desire to be there for families at times of tragedy.

    Since joining Police Carmen has worked in a variety of roles, including emergency response, traffic and watch house. In 2009 she became an Inquest Officer, with responsibility for managing police enquiries on behalf of the Coroner, representing Police at ordinary and special Inquest hearings, liaising with the various industries relating to deaths and liaising with the families of the deceased. Inquest Officers are also the ‘go-to’ police officers for advice and guidance for frontline staff and they help provide frontline police training.

    Through her work as an Inquest Officer she has been involved in the evolution of the current Wellington District inquest team and has helped identify areas for improvement in the inquest process at a national level.

    Carmen's Christian faith is exemplified in her active life at The Rock Church. Recently she and Superintendent Anna Jackson were invited to the morning service at the Cathedral of St Paul to talk about faith in the workplace. Carmen drew inspiration from her work with families, sharing a testimony about humility, mercy and the increasing acceptance of compassion as a cornerstone of policing.

    Carmen is based at Wellington Central Police Station.

    Carmen Stewart
  • Sue Burridge

    Year joined: 
    Current rank: 
    Senior Constable
    Current role: 
    Dog Handler, Wellington

    Senior Constable Sue Burridge joined the New Zealand Police in 2000.

    Sue’s first role was in Wairoa, a large rural area with a very small police station. In 2002, Sue completed the Diplomatic Protection Squad qualifying course and transferred to Wellington, where she worked with a variety of international guests of the New Zealand Government.

    In 2005, Sue began her training to become a dog handler. She graduated with her first operational frontline dog, Demon, in 2006. She then joined the Armed Offenders Squad (AOS) in 2008 after completing the AOS and AOS Dog qualification courses. She spent four years on the squad before Demon retired in 2011.

    After Demon retired Sue picked up another dog, Hades and spent some time with Search and Rescue. She currently works out of the Wellington Dog Section as a General Purpose Dog Handler, and she is still partnered with Hades.

    Outside of her job at Police, Sue has written a children’s book and is currently working on a sequel. She also participates in Army circuit training at Trentham Army Camp as well as taking Hades for regular runs.

    Sue Burridge
  • Tracey Bransgrove

    Year joined: 
    Current rank: 
    Current role: 
    Enquiry Officer

    Constable Tracey Bransgrove joined the New Zealand Police in 2002.

    Tracey started off as a General Duties Constable in Dunedin, before she became an Enquiry Officer in North Dunedin. During the February 2011 earthquakes, Tracey was a part of the Earthquake Reassurance Policing team. She says assisting the Christchurch staff on the day of the quake was an experience she’ll never forget, and she remembers feeling incredibly vulnerable walking the streets with sirens wailing and seeing the extent of all the destruction.

    Tracey is qualified as a Protection Officer, which involves planning and implementing VIP visits. She says it was tough and challenging finishing the course, as it took her outside her comfort zone, but it’s incredibly rewarding seeing everything come together on the day – even when protestors get thrown in the mix. Tracey has worked with the Governor General, Prime Minister and Members of Parliament, and on Royal visits.

    Tracey is also qualified as a Level Three child interviewer, dealing with a lot of serious child abuse cases. She says working in this role is challenging but very rewarding.

    Currently Tracey works in an enquiries office that investigates complaints initiated by frontline staff, as well as being a part of a Uniform Team that assists the Criminal Investigations Branch. She is also an on-call forensic photographer, as she has a keen interest in photography.

    Outside of work Tracey is very active, enjoying sports and getting outdoors. She is a keen cyclist and has competed in many mountain running races and triathlons, including the GODzone adventure race. Tracey’s two daughters are also very active, both in swimming and surf lifesaving, and Tracey often travels away with them as a parent-help when they compete at regional competitions.

    Tracey Bransgrove
  • Flora Nielsen

    Year joined: 
    Current rank: 
    Senior Constable
    Current role: 
    Community Constable, Upper Hutt

    In 2003 the New Zealand Police introduced a flexible employment option (FEO). This policy removed time frames and allowed staff to remain in their current roles while they took the FEO option. This made it possible for Flora Nielsen, and many others, to combine motherhood with a career.

    Flora, from the isolated Chatham Islands (800 km east of Christchurch, with a population of 630), joined the police in 1987, and was initially posted to Tauranga.  Six years later she moved to Wellington and was on section for a time before transferring to Lower Hutt and finding her niche as the Community Constable in Petone.

    When her daughter Sam was born, Flora took nine months’ leave and then returned to work full-time for three months while her partner took time out from his career and looked after their daughter full-time. They then decided that they would both apply for FEO so that Sam always had a parent carer until she started school. Flora worked Monday to Thursday 8.00am-to 2.00pm and all day Friday while her partner covered the 3.00pm-11pm shift at Naenae, Monday to Thursday. Removing the timeframe for FEO meant that Flora could enjoy motherhood and continue her career.

    After ten years’ service Flora took over from the resident police officer on the Chatham Islands to allow him to take leave on the mainland. This was followed by other periods of relieving, from six weeks to two and a half months duration. The Chatham’s sole charge constable position also has a number of other roles, including the Court Registrar (for the Ministry of Justice), Customs Officer (for NZ Customs) and Immigration Officer (for Immigration New Zealand).

    Flora says that having several relatives in the island’s small population was not a problem, as they were generally more embarrassed than she was if they were caught doing something that came to her notice. The biggest challenge she had was convincing her own father that he should desist from driving without a licence.

    Flora has always been drawn to community policing and for the last eight years has been Community Constable in Upper Hutt. With her daughter Sam now at college, Flora still loves her career and can hardly believe that it was the 28 year clasp to her long service medal that she received last year.

    Flora Nielsen