Women in leadership roles

In 2016 three out of 12 District Commanders are women and many women have senior roles within the organisation.

This is only a selection of some of NZ Police's inspirational female leaders. We will be updating these details over the next few weeks.

  • Jill Rogers

    Current rank: 
    Superintendent
    Current role: 
    Counties Manukau District Commander

    Jill Rogers is the District Commander for Counties Manukau, New Zealand.

    Counties Manukau District has 1,221 staff and is made up of four areas; South, Central, East, West, and includes the Auckland International Airport. Some of these areas are considered the fastest growing in New Zealand. 

    Counties Manukau Police District serves a population of approximately 567,700 from Franklin in the south to Otahuhu in the west. The District’s population is made up of 165 different ethnicities and has a large population of Māori, Pacific and Asian. By 2025 the ethnicity mix of our younger population will have a higher proportion of Pacific and Asian.  A large percentage of the Counties Manukau population are living in areas that are classed as the most socio-economically deprived in New Zealand. 

    After graduating from Police College in 1993, Superintendent Rogers started her career in the General Duties Branch in Auckland City and has spent the majority of her service in the Auckland region. 

    Jill joined the Criminal Investigation Branch in 1996 where she worked for 17 years and undertook significant roles in a range of serious, complex, and protracted criminal investigations.

    Jill most recently held the role of Area Commander Auckland Central, a position she held for three years. Prior to her transfer to Auckland City, she worked in Waitematā District as the Area Prevention Manager North Shore.

    Jill’s senior roles have included Acting District Commander Auckland City and Acting Detective Superintendent Central Districts. In July 2017, Jill took up the position of District Commander, Counties Manukau District.

    As the Counties Manukau District Commander, Superintendent Rogers’ priorities in the short and medium term are a strong focus on family harm, youth and the community.

    Jill Rogers
  • Sue Schwalger

    Year joined: 
    1983
    Current rank: 
    Superintendent
    Current role: 
    Central District Commander

    Superintendent Sue Schwalger joined the New Zealand Police in 1983.

    Sue has held many different roles within Police, including Surveillance Officer, Drugs and Organised Crime Investigator, District Crime Manager and Whanganui Area Commander. Sue has worked at Police National Headquarters, as well as in several Police districts, which has given her a broad knowledge and expertise in many different areas of policing.

    Sue has also worked as a Detective on many high profile murder cases, including the shooting of farmer Scott Guy. However she says that of all the cases she’s worked on, the child abuse and child homicides cases are the ones that stay with her, as they are a reminder of the vulnerability of children and the duty adults have to protect them.

    Currently Sue is one of three female District Commanders in New Zealand. As the Central District Commander, Sue has overall responsibility for the delivery of policing services to her district, which stretches from Taranaki down to Manawatu, and includes around 40 police stations.

    Sue Schwalger
  • Julia Lynch

    Year joined: 
    1995
    Current rank: 
    Inspector
    Current role: 
    Tamaki Makaurau Principal Strategic Advisor

    Inspector Julia Lynch joined the New Zealand Police in 1995.

    When she first left school, she wasn't sure what she wanted to do for a career so she worked a number of jobs before joining the Police in her early 20s. During her first five years with Police she worked in the General Duties Branch.

    In 2000 she joined the Counties Manukau Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB), qualifying as a Detective in 2004. She was then promoted to Sergeant and worked in the Tactical Crime Unit before moving to a Response Sergeant's role.

    In 2005 Julie took leave without pay for almost a year while she worked as a Human Resources Advisor for the Aviation Security Service, after finishing a Bachelor of Business majoring in Human Resources. Following her return to Police she was promoted to Senior Sergeant in 2006, working in Youth & Community Services in Counties Manukau West.

    Julia took parental leave in 2008 when she had her first child, later returning to the Youth & Community Services role before she became the Neighbourhood Policing Team (NPT) Coordinator in 2010. During her time as coordinator she helped implement the first NPT Teams into the Counties Manukau District. After she had her second child she became the Acting Prevention Manager Auckland City District for a short period before returning to the Youth & Community Services role. She was then appointed as the Counties Manukau Road Policing Manager in 2012. She took on her current role as the Counties Manukau Central Area Commander in 2013.

    During her time with Police, Julia has been fortunate to have many mentors, and has been appreciative of being able to work flexible employment hours. She is now metnoring staff herself and believes it's important to encourage and support others in their careers. In addition to her BBS, Julia has a post-graduate diploma in Business & Administration and a Masters of Management, both of which she studied and completed while working for Police.

    Julia Lynch
  • Tania Kura

    Year joined: 
    1987
    Current rank: 
    Superintendent
    Current role: 
    Eastern District Commander

    Superintendent Tania Kura was appointed to the Eastern District Commander role in July 2017 after 5 years as the Hawkes Bay Area Commander. She has 30 years’ experience in NZ Police. She was recruited from Invercargill and was first posted to Christchurch. She has since worked in four policing Districts  - Central, Bay of Plenty, RNZPC and Eastern. Her career covers a range of areas including general duties, criminal investigations, undercover agent, intelligence, O/C station, operational field training and Area Commander. In 2016 she was the NZ Police security advisor to the NZ Olympic team in Rio de Janiero.  

    Tania has three children and currently lives in Havelock North with her youngest daughter Rylie and husband Dave. Eastern district covers the sunny east coast of the north island  - Hastings, Napier and Gisborne.      

    Tania Kura
  • Tusha Penny

    Year joined: 
    1992
    Current rank: 
    Superintendent
    Current role: 
    District Commander Waitemata

    Since joining the New Zealand Police in 1992, Superintendent Tusha Penny has worked in both provincial and metropolitan areas. A significant part of her career has been spent in the Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB) investigating serious crimes including lead roles in several high profile homicides. She has also worked as a mentor in Tonga assisting to establish family violence units and was part of the New Zealand Police contingent that assisted with the Tongan riots in 2006.

    Tusha has been pivotal in the change management Police have gone through over recent years in respect of child protection and sexual violence. She was critical in identifying and bringing attention to the systemic failure of Police to address child abuse investigations in the Wairarapa. She led the implementation of a multi-agency centre in Wellington known as "Koru House" which was significant in addressing a lot of the issues found in Operation Hope (the long term investigation of historic child abuse files). Tusha was the first officer to take on the role of National Manager - Child Protection and Sexual Violence in 2011 where she spearheaded a national change management programme to accelerate the Police response to the Commission of Inquiry.

    From 2014 Tusha held the role of National Manager: Prevention based at Police National Headquarters in Wellington, working on a major change programme within the Family and Sexual Violence area. This gave her responsibility for family harm, victims and vulnerable whanau initiatives across the country. 

    In November 2016 Tusha was selected to become the District Commander of Waitemata. She is a powerful advocate for enabling her management team and staff to lead with passion, heart and drive both in their core roles and in the leading of Our Business.  

    Tusha was named as a Finalist in the 2016 Westpac Women of Influence Awards – an achievement not only because of the award status, but because she was nominated by female Inspectors within her Senior Leadership Team.

    Her Iwi is Ngati Porou and she is the first Māori female District Commander in New Zealand Police. Tusha is married with two teenaged children.

    Tusha Penny
  • Freda Grace

    Year joined: 
    1984
    Current rank: 
    Inspector
    Current role: 
    Hamilton City Area Commander

    When Inspector Freda Grace joined the New Zealand Police in 1984, she was one of only six women in her wing.

    Aside from a short time in Counties Manukau, Freda has spent the majority of her career with Police in the Waikato District. During her career she has worked in a variety of roles and areas within the organisation, including frontline, rural stations, Enquiries Office, Police Support Unit, Prosecutions, Community Policing Centre, and Operations Group; and as a Staff Sergeant and a Tactical Coordinator.

    In 2013 Freda become the Road Policing Manager at Waikato District Headquarters, a position she still holds. In 2015, she took command of the Waikato District Armed Offenders Squad (AOS) – she is currently the only woman in an AOS command position.

    Freda loves the challenge of policing and says she is inspired to come to work due to the great people in Police. She’s very proud of the work that Police do and the positive contributions they make to the community every day and says the difference that police officers make in the lives of victims and offenders cannot be underestimated.

    Freda believes that Police provides many opportunities for all its staff and it’s just a matter of identifying those opportunities and sometimes just giving something a go.

    Freda has two children and is heavily involved in their sporting activities - including water polo, karate and netball – as either a manager or in a committee role.  Freda has also served on school boards and has also been involved with the Parent Teacher’s Association.

    Freda Grace
  • Karyn Malthus

    Year joined: 
    1987
    Current rank: 
    Superintendent
    Current role: 
    Auckland District Commander

    "Each and every day we strive to help keep our communities safe as well as to provide some form of justice and closure for victims and their families when crime occurs. I am continually in awe of the dedication and work ethic of our police officers and employees and I am proud to be part of New Zealand Police."

    Karyn has spent the majority of her career in the Criminal Investigations Branch (CIB), having joined the CIB in her fifth year with Police. In 2001, Karyn moved to Counties Manukau as a Detective Sergeant, where she was promoted to Senior Sergeant and then Detective Senior Sergeant.

    Inspired to become a Detective, Karyn joined CIB after working on her first homicide in Hamilton in the early 1990s. During her time with the CIB, Karyn has been involved in many high-profile investigations, including Operation Jade and Operation Pickford, which both involved the murders of women in South Auckland. She also worked on investigating the murder of two men during a series of aggravated robberies, which resulted in the successful prosecution of five offenders. In 2009, Karyn was promoted to Detective Inspector in Northland before continuing in that role in Auckland City District until 2014.

    After a stint as Tasman District Commander, Karyn is now Auckland District Commander with responsibility for the delivery of policing services in Auckland City.

    Karyn Malthus
  • Virginia Le Bas

    Year joined: 
    1991
    Rank reached: 
    Detective Superintendent
    Current role: 
    National Manager Organised Crime

    Detective Superintendent Virginia Le Bas joined the New Zealand Police in 1991. Prior to joining, she worked as a secondary school teacher, after studying a Bachelor of Physical Education, a Post Graduate Diploma in Sports Medicine and receiving her Teaching Diploma at Otago University.

    Virginia started off her Police career on the frontline. Two years later she joined the Criminal Investigations Branch (CIB), where she worked for 23 years. During her time as a Detective she led many high-profile homicide and organised crime investigations. Her work as an investigator led to her receiving a Commissioner’s Commendation in 2014 for her commitment, professionalism and dedication to duty. She also received a Long Service Star for 21 years’ service.

    Virginia was seconded to the Australian Federal Police in 2003 as a Program Manager in the Law Enforcement Cooperation Program. She travelled to a number of Pacific nations to provide investigative training as part of a capacity building project on behalf of the Pacific Chiefs of Police.

    Currently Virginia is the National Manager Organised Crime. She is the first female to be appointed to this role, as well as the first appointed female Detective Superintendent.

    Outside of work, Virginia is a keen cyclist and she frequently competes in long distance mountain and road cycle races with her partner Bob. They also enjoy travelling overseas, often touring around Europe for a few weeks at a time on their bicycles.

    Virginia Le Bas
  • Penny Gifford

    Year joined: 
    1993
    Current rank: 
    Inspector
    Current role: 
    Manager: Partnerships

    Inspector Penny Gifford joined the New Zealand Police in 1993.

    Penny started her career in Invercargill as part of the General Duties Branch, but aspired to join the Criminal Investigations Branch (CIB) and the Armed Offenders Squad (AOS), so in 1999 she transferred Wellington to commence training for both. She says the AOS course was by far the most challenging course she’s ever done, but also the most rewarding.

    After finishing CIB and AOS training, Penny spent a large majority of her next 13 years with the CIB. Being part of the CIB meant taking responsibility for ensuring people, including children who had been the victims of serious crimes, received the justice and outcomes they deserved. She says the cases she worked on during her time with the CIB remain etched in her memory and help drive the work she does today.

    Penny also spent six years as part of the AOS, which she describes as the highlight of her career. She says it’s an incredibly close unit, knowing that she’s responsible for the guys in her stack, and they for her. From shots being fired at the team down a driveway, to being part of a team returning a baby safely to its mother, Penny says when the pager went off, there was no telling what she would be confronted with.

    Currently Penny is the Manager: Partnerships , based in the NPC. The role involves working with both external organisations and internal work groups to find ways of reducing harm in our communities and achieving our goal of safer communities together. It also involves supporting innovation within our organisation and developing strong partnerships with externals to support that innovation.

    Penny Gifford
  • Sandra Venables

    Year joined: 
    1994
    Current rank: 
    Assistant Commissioner
    Current role: 
    Assistant Commissioner - Road Policing and Prevention

    Superintendent Sandra Venables joined the New Zealand Police in 1994.

    After attending Police College, Sandra started her career in Hamilton, before she was transferred to Kaitaia and promoted to Sergeant. During her career she has worked as the Northern District Family Violence Co-ordinator, the Inspector in charge of Eastern Bay of Plenty, and Senior Sergeant in charge of Waikato’s Thames-Coromandel area.

    Sandra loves her job and has appreciated the experiences she has had while with Police, including working and living in some remote communities across the North Island. A particular career highlight for her was attending the 2014 Gallipoli commemorations in Turkey as a Liaison Officer.

    Also in 2014, Sandra became the first female to be appointed as the Eastern District Commander. As District Commander Sandra has overall responsibility for the delivery of policing services to the Eastern District, which covers the area from East Cape through to Southern Hawke’s Bay.

    In 2017, Sandra was appointed as the first female Assistant Commissioner of Police. Sandra is now Assistant Commissioner - Road Policing responsible for delivering of Road Policing Services and Strategy.

    Sandra Venables
  • Sarah Stewart

    Year joined: 
    1997
    Current rank: 
    Inspector
    Current role: 
    Manawatu Area Commander

    Inspector Sarah Stewart joined the New Zealand Police in 1997.

    Sarah started her working life as a teacher in Gisborne in 1995 but left after two years to follow in the footsteps of her father, who had been a Sergeant with the Police.

    After graduating from Police College, Sarah moved back to Gisborne for five years. She then joined the Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB) in Lower Hutt. During her time with the CIB, Sarah was sent to the Solomon Islands, spending 12 months there working on Civil War homicides and mentoring police officers.

    Sarah says there was one case in particular that she investigated during her time in the Solomon Islands that she is really proud of. Three teenage boys had been murdered during the Civil War and their families had to bury their bodies quickly and leave the area to get away from the militants. As the militants still lived in the area, the family hadn’t been able to return. Sarah and her team were able to investigate the homicides and eventually negotiate the surrender of the five offenders. Once the village was safe, the families were able to return to their home and have a proper burial for the boys.

    After her time in the Solomon Islands, Sarah moved to Hawke’s Bay in 2008 to work as a Police Deployment Manager. Currently Sarah is the Manawatu Area Commander, a role which she has been in since mid-2015. She is the first female Area Commander in Manawatu.

    Sarah Stewart
  • Naila Hassan

    Current rank: 
    Inspector
    Current role: 
    Counties Manukau West Area Commander

    When Naila Hassan was a teenager, she knew being a Police Officer was what she wanted to do for her career. However when she left school she wasn’t old enough to join, so she spent the summer working as a lifeguard and a postie.

    When Naila first joined the New Zealand Police she tried hard not to stand out as being ‘different’, especially as she was the only woman in her section. Diversity within the organisation back then was not as promoted as it is now, so she also kept to herself that she was a Muslim. However attitudes have come a long way since then and Naila is proud to be Muslim and working for an organisation that values diversity within its ranks.

    Naila has spent the majority of her career with Police in Auckland. She spent six years in the Criminal Investigations Unit, and has also been a Prosecutor, a District Prosecutions Manager, an Area Prevention Manager, a Policing Development Manager, and a Youth and Communities Manager.

    During her time with the Police Naila has also completed three degrees – a Bachelor of Policing (Investigations) from Charles Sturt University in Sydney, a Law Degree from Auckland University and a Masters in Strategic Studies from Victoria University.

    Currently Naila is the Counties Manukau West Area Commander, based in Huntly. Being the Area Commander can be challenging but Naila finds it extremely rewarding and she tries to get out on the frontline with her staff as often as she can.

    Outside of her career with Police, Naila is a lifeguard at Piha during the summer. Along with her partner Pete, she is an active road cyclist and they both enjoy spear fishing and free diving. They also help Naila’s twin sister raise her two teenage boys.

    Naila Hassan
  • Amelia Steel

    Year joined: 
    1997
    Current rank: 
    Inspector
    Current role: 
    Southern District Operations Manager

    Inspector Amelia Steel joined the New Zealand Police in 1997.

    During her time with Police Amelia has worked in the Police Legal Section, Police Professional Conduct team, and for Prosecutions in both Lower Hutt and Dunedin.

    Prior to joining Police, Amelia completed a psychology degree. Once she became a police officer, she went back to study part-time and completed a law degree before joining the Police Prosecutions team in 2004. In 2010 Amelia was promoted to Senior Sergeant and became the first female District Prosecutions Manager for the Southern District.

    In 2013 Amelia was promoted from Senior Sergeant to Inspector. She was one of the first female Inspectors to be based in Dunedin permanently, along with Inspector Mel Aitken. Amelia remembers this as one of the defining moments of her career, because it meant she was in a position of influence which gave her the capability to make significant contributions to benefit staff and the organisation.

    Currently Amelia is the Southern District’s Operations Manager. She is also the lead of the Southern District’s Women’s Advisory Network, a group that helps support women in Police to reach their full potential.

    Amelia Steel
  • Mel Aitken

    Year joined: 
    1999
    Current rank: 
    Inspector
    Current role: 
    Acting West Coast Area Commander

    Inspector Mel Aitken joined the New Zealand Police in 1999, after completing a degree at the University of Otago. She was part of Wing 183, which is the first wing where all 80 recruits were sent straight to Auckland.

    Despite starting out in Auckland, Mel has spent the majority of her career in the Southern District in operational and frontline response roles. She is currently the West Coast Area Commander, a role which she says was a step outside her comfort zone and something she had never dreamed of doing.

    Before taking on the Area Commander role, Mel didn’t know much about the West Coast but says the role has given her an opportunity to do things that most police officers in a similar role wouldn’t.  Because the area is so large geographically, there is a real reliance on community and inter-agency support to get things done. “Everybody just chips in, no complaints, no moans - just hard workers that want to do a great job every day. That’s what makes me the most proud.”

    Outside of work Mel is a competitive distance runner, a hobby she took on later in life. Competing in half and full marathons has given her the opportunity to race around some beautiful parts of the country. Through racing she has also met some incredibly talented people who share her passion for running. Last year she took out both the New Zealand Cross Country Title and New Zealand Road Running Title for her age group.

    Mel Aitken
  • Karen Henrikson

    Year joined: 
    2003
    Current rank: 
    Inspector
    Current role: 
    Inspector: Projects, Prevention

    Inspector Karen Henrikson joined the New Zealand Police in 1983 as part of Wing 88.

    During her time with the Police Karen has worked in Porirua, Tokoroa and Hamilton in the Public Safety Team, Investigations, and Prevention. In 2008 she was promoted to Inspector, the first female in the Waikato District to reach this rank. In 2012 Karen was awarded the "Most Outstanding Female Leader" in the Australasian Excellence in Policing Awards, held in Canberra, Australia.

    Karen is currently the Operations Support Manager for Waikato. In this role Karen is responsible for a variety of areas within the Waikato District, including Case Management, Firearms Licensing, and Search and Rescue. She works closely with Civil Defence and Emergency Services planning for possible major incidents, as well as the planning of major events such as VIP tours, international sporting events and local community events. She is also on the District Leadership Team, which make decisions on the District’s focus and priorities.

    Outside of her role at Police, Karen has been heavily involved with netball. She is an ex-Silver Fern and has also coached teams for Waikato. Karen says that coaching is comparative to managing staff, as it involves managing different personalities, setting goals, strategising, motivating, teaching, and providing constructive feedback to enable high performance.

    In recent years Karen has taken a step back from netball to focus on her career, however she still enjoys watching games in her spare time. She also enjoys off-road cycling, gardening and fishing.

    Karen Henrikson