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.

  • Marie Storey

    Years of service: 
    1943 - 1947
    Rank reached: 

    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 and 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
  • Pauline Joblin, QSM

    Years of service: 
    1964 - 1987
    Rank reached: 

    Pauline Joblin joined the police in 1964 when institutional attitudes towards policewomen were beginning to improve. While some police saw women with their 'inferior strength' a liability, others were more accepting, observing that women 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, arranged to get an abortion from a woman who was also running a legitimate business – a home for the elderly. She paid £25 in marked notes for the procedure and went to the window hoping to be seen by waiting detectives, while the woman collected the equipment. No-one was there.

    When the woman returned Pauline asked to use the toilet and climbed out the window phoning 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 and participated in the occupation of Bastion Point which occurred after the government wanted to sub-divide Ngāti Whātua land for private housing. Ngāti Whātua iwi occupied the land for several months.

    Pauline was one of the 600 police officers forming a cordon around the camp after a Supreme Court injunction that the protesters leave the land. It took police all day to clear the camp site, making 222 arrests.

    Pauline served for 23 years initially in both Wellington and Auckland and was awarded the Queen's Service Medal for her work as chair of the Police Benevolent Fund and for her time on the Centennial Trust Committee.

    Pauline Joblin, QSM
  • Nora Crawford

    Years of service: 
    1943 - 1978
    Rank reached: 

    Nora Crawford completed her secondary education by correspondence while on the family farm near Hawera. Although she completed a course at Massey University and became a herd tester in 1943 she became a member of the third intake of policewomen.

    She was posted to Auckland in March 1944 where her duties included dealing with ‘idle and disorderly’ women, investigating illegal bookmakers and sly groggers, patrolling parks and cinemas, and 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 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 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 skilled fraud investigator led to a second career with bank card security. She was influential and active in several 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.

  • 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 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 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 to attend all political meetings and rallies. Pauline found it interesting working with police of other nationalities especially noting their reaction to working with women. 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 the police contingents would take fruit for the children when they visited settlements - a positive relationship building exercise.

    Namibian Independence Day was declared on 21 March 1990 and ended one of the largest and most complex UN operations in the field. The three policewomen who participated in the exercise were posted to different areas and did not see much of each until the presentation of the United Nations medal. The women thought they had done a good job and that the experience would be a highlight of their careers.

    Pauline Thurston
  • 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, after graduation, as temporary constables to Auckland 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. While attempting to climb higher she had grabbed a branch which broke and caused her to fall. The accident and the damage caused by the fall were the start of an uphill battle for Rosalie to keep her job as a policewoman.

    Rosalie had spinal surgery to repair her back in 1957 and it took her a year to recover. When she returned to work she was assigned office work because she couldn’t perform full duties. 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. Despite the then commissioner successfully appealing the decision, no further action was taken against Rosalie and she stayed with Police

    Rosalie became an inquiry officer, then an inquest officer before retiring in 1985. She has actively pursued her interests - scouting, music and woodworking and has her own workshop for repairing and making items from wood and metal. Rosalie owns a 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: 

    One 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 needed to give three months’ notice. This was an unusual beginning to a career which included her becoming the first policewoman to be promoted to sergeant and then, commissioned officer.

    She began her police training with the first group of women to train with men at the, then new, Trentham Police Training School. She was also one of three Māori women in the class. Following her training she was posted to Auckland, where she rapidly demonstrated her skills as a competent member of the Women’s Division and was promoted to the rank of Detective in 1959.

    In 1960 the Government Service Equal Pay Act was passed and caused much debate about the relative value of women’s work in the police where women received 80% of a male constable’s pay. Qualifying for promotion, Betty unintentionally became the catalyst for an urgent review of policewomen’s pay. 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.

    Commissioner Urquhart 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 retired from Police in 1970.;

    Betty Bennett
  • Pam Sowter

    Years of service: 
    1956 - 1961
    Rank reached: 

    Constable Pam Sowter (née Anderson) joined the New Zealand Police in 1956, one of eight women in her intake of 100 trainees at Trentham Military Camp. Trainees lived in army barracks split into three sections, each with its own tutor. While Pam was the first policewoman to graduate at the top of her course, sadly, her certificate reads: ‘Passed out first of HIS course’.

    After graduation she was assigned to Auckland, where she patrolled set beats in the CBD, Parnell, Newmarket and Ponsonby, always with another policewoman.

    One night on patrol Pam and her colleague Val Keefe decided to walk under Grafton Bridge rather than over it as instructed. Once they realised they were lost they scrambled up a clay bank into a factory yard to get out. On their return to the station they had to think of a story to explain their bedraggled state.

    Pam remembers the first public speech she made as a policewoman, when she was guest speaker at the Blockhouse Bay Plunket Mothers Club. Being inexperienced and nervous, she had written out her speech. As she got up to speak, she realised she’d left her entire speech at home. Pam decided to take the bull by the horns, telling the women she’d forgotten her notes and suggesting they ask her questions instead. It turned out to be a success and she never suffered from nerves again 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 sworn members of the police and two of them are still serving.

    Pam Sowter (nee Anderson)
  • Angela Harwood, QSM

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

    Prior to immigrating to New Zealand in 1964 Angela was a policewoman 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 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 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 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 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 between them and 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
  • Jackie Cantley

    Years of service: 
    1972 - 1978
    Rank reached: 

    Jackie served in the New Zealand Police between 1972 and 1978 and returned temporarily in 1981.

    During a very cold winter in 1976, when a skirt was still mandatory for policewomen Jackie wore her husband’s trousers when she worked the late shift. There was at that time debate as to whether or not women could wear trousers but her practical-minded sectional sergeant allowed her to wear despite reservations from another senior officer.  

    Two years after leaving the Police Jackie returned to duty temporarily as a constable, 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 entered the station taking several hostages while armed with a crossbow, knives and 14 homemade explosives.


  • Paula Stevens

    Years of service: 
    1972 - 2007
    Rank reached: 

    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 three years in Wellington 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 in Wellington she was promoted to inspector. In 1993 she moved to Christchurch and worked as a shift commander, and later the operational services manager.

    In Christchurch, Paula took the Armed Offenders Squad (AOS) course and passed with flying colours. She 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 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. In 2003, she was deployed to 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 21 countries.


    Paula Stevens
  • Cushla Watson

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

    It was 10 July 1985 when the Rainbow Warrior sunk at its Marsden Wharf moorings in Auckland, after two explosive devices were set on her hull. The French government committed this act of terrorism in New Zealand. It is believed that at least 13 members of the French security and armed forces were involved in the incident in which a Rainbow Warrior crew member was killed.

    Cushla Watson joined the Police in 1973 and by time of this event she was a seasoned and experienced detective. She was an integral part of the investigative team and worked the case from day one. Only 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 her enquiries she visited Switzerland to check on the legitimacy of the Turenge passports which were claimed to have been issued in Lyon, France but proved to be fraudulent. She made enquiries in France, where her investigations were scrutinised and she was unable to conduct her own interviews. It was clear that higher authorities were controlling French Police actions.

    In England, with the cooperation of the Metropolitan Police, she linked Gerald Andries a crew member on the yachtOuvéa to the purchase of the Zodiac boat and Yamaha motor used to plant the explosive devices. The Ouvéa was believed to have dropped the Turenge couple off on the New Zealand coast.

    Cushla had postponed having her family while establishing her career but eventually took maternity leave and bore two sons. She and another detective put forward a proposal to job share to make it easier for women with children to work but flexible employment was not an option, and after battling bureaucracy and the then attitudes of the police administration both women resigned. The service lost two competent and very experienced detectives.

    Cushla Watson
  • Valerie Redshaw

    Years of service: 
    1962 – 1963
    Rank reached: 

    Prior to joining the New Zealand Police in 1962 Valerie Redshaw was 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. She 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 and recruits and contributing to senior and commissioned officer courses. For a subsequent seven years she designed curricula for all police training, and was seconded for two and a half years 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 several 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
  • Ali Stevenson

    Years of service: 
    1973 - 1987
    Rank reached: 

    In 1973 a shortage of police in Auckland prompted a desperate mayor, Sir Dove-Myer Robinson, to find more staff to combat the high crime rate. Government approval resulted in the training of Wing 120 at an old teachers’ college in Ardmore, South Auckland.

    Ali Stevenson was one of 13 women recruited to this wing. Inspector Bill Shanks was commandant, and he affectionately dubbed the new female trainees as his ‘Dolly Belles’.

    Ali 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 woke he apologised to the firemen for the false alarm and dragged all the recruits out in their pyjamas to reprimand them.  It became evident the next day 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 police duty was on 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 was 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 so got in a bit of trouble when she returned to the station.

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

    Ali Stevenson
  • Donna Howard

    Donna joined the New Zealand Police in 1991. After graduating from Police College, she started her career in the General Duties Branch in Porirua, then, the Criminal Investigations Branch (CIB) in 1997.

    After Donna qualified as a detective, she joined the Organised Crime Unit (OCU) in 2001. Mike Oxnam and Andrea Jopling were her mentors at the CIB, and she believed she was very fortunate to have been mentored by them.

    After a few years with the OCU Donna was promoted to detective sergeant and deployed to the Solomon Islands, as Team Leader National Investigations, based in Honiara. Donna was also part of a United Nations deployment to Timor-Leste (East Timor). After roles in general duties and intelligence, she became the Community Policing Team Leader of Becora substation in Dili.

    Following her overseas deployments Donna was promoted to detective senior sergeant, and she became Crime Strategy Manager. In early 2014, Donna was promoted to Inspector in the Professional Standards group.

    Donna had a close-knit group of friends in and out of the Police and she spent her time with them, in a sporting capacity and socially. They liked to cycle, swim, and go to the gym together, challenging themselves and having a lot of laughs along the way. She competed in several half-ironman competitions, challenging herself to overcome her fear of swimming in open water.

    Inspector Donna Howard was diagnosed with cancer in 2017, and despite a brave fight, passed away in January 2018.

    Donna served with passion and commitment for 27 years.

    At the time she passed away she was the Wairarapa Area Commander, a position she took up in early 2016.

    She will be fondly remembered by her colleagues as a dedicated and well-respected police officer who made a substantial contribution to her local community and the New Zealand Police.

    Donna Howard
  • 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.

  • Sandra Manderson, QSM

    Years of service: 
    1987 - 2017
    Rank reached: 

    Superintendent Sandra Manderson decided when she was six that she wanted to join the New Zealand Police, because she wanted to work in and for the community.

    She joined the New Zealand Police in 1987. During her career with the Police, she has held a range of positions including Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB), frontline and operational appointments. In 1993 she was awarded a Queen Services Medal for services to the community.

    Sandra was the first female officer to be promoted to superintendent. After her promotion she became National Manager of Organisational Performance based at Police National Headquarters, which involved evaluating the police performance in the organisation. She became the first female to be appointed district commander, becoming Canterbury’s District Commander in 2002 a job she enjoyed, working with great staff, government departments, local councils and the community.

    She has also achieved other firsts in her career: she was the first director of the Crime Prevention Unit in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Police’s first National Manager of Organisational Performance and the first female police attaché to the Americas, based in Washington DC.

    When Prince Charles visited New Zealand in 2012 she was the commander of policing around the visits. She also was the national commander for policing for the 2015 FIFA Under-20 and ICC Cricket Cup. Sandra was subsequently based at Police National Headquarters, where she worked as the International Services Group Manager. She was also President of the Police Guild.

    Sandra retired after 30 years of service in 2017.

    Sandra Manderson, QSM
  • Robyn Brand

    Years of service: 
    1967 - 1968
    Rank reached: 

    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.

    Robyn was on duty during the Wahine disaster, spending over 12 hours in the morgue at night as the bodies were brought in. 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. Staff worked continuously through the night and were on shift the following night. There was no counselling for police staff after tragic events.

    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 we could be. Joining the police helped me do that. 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. She had two more children and she focused on them, before going into various part-time jobs. When the family moved to Tauranga she became a real estate agent.

    Two of her children 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, Auckland. Robyn’s husband was also a policeman for 38 years. She has seven grandchildren, six of whom are girls. Robyn wonders if one of them will become a police officer one day.

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

  • Edna Pearce

    Years of service: 
    1941 - 1966
    Rank reached: 

    Edna Pearce was one of the first ten women to begin police training on June 3rd, 1941. The recruits were selected by the Police Commissioner Denis Cummings. They needed to have ‘superior education’, common sense, know shorthand and be able to type. They also had to 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 but was expected to wear smart civilian dress complete with hat, gloves and handbag. In November of her first year Edna was the first policewomen to make an arrest.

    A highlight of her career was being seconded to the Department of Internal Affairs to take charge of an internment camp for Japanese women and children at Pokeno, in the 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 killing three women and four children. 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
  • Carole Tipler

    Years of service: 
    1972 - 2014
    Rank reached: 

    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 2015.

    Carole Tipler
  • Nancy Aitchison

    Years of service: 
    1941 - 1970

    In 1941 ten women were chosen as trainees to become New Zealand’s first 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 Aitchison 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 used in seeking evidence of sly grogging, bookmaking and in searching ships and opium dens for women.

    After 13 years at the Christchurch station she transferred to Napier, where she remained until she retired. Future inspector Joe Franklin, whom she had enlisted as a non-police diving expert during a, earlier case found her impressive.

    In 1953 Nancy was awarded the Coronation Medal, one of 19 awarded to the New Zealand Police and one of two to policewomen that year. In 1969 she was awarded her 28-year service clasp at the Christmas Day 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 shortly after following a long battle with breast cancer.

    Nancy Aitchison
  • 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, becoming permanent in 1967. She was posted to the Women’s Division at Auckland Central Police Station and the following year she was transferred to Otahuhu, where she was one of two policewomen. Her duties included enquiries and serving summonses, executing warrants and interviewing women victims of sexual violence for the Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB).

    Marilyn married a policeman and left the police for seven years. In 1976 a week after re-applying she was posted to Rotorua then transferred to the surveillance team in Wellington, a post she found lonely as she wasn’t expected to communicate with other officers.

    Following her time in Wellington, most of Marilyn’s police career was with the Hamilton CIB. She was involved in hostage negotiation, homicide clerk duties, prosecutions and was a medic for the Armed Offenders Squad. Although she qualified as a sergeant, Marilyn postponed taking the rank to stay with the CIB, a job she loved. She devoted a total of 12 years to criminal investigation.

    In 1986 she was appointed Senior Sergeant Officer-in-Charge at Ngaruawahia, an unusual position for a woman then. She retired in 1989 and says that she loved every minute of her job.

    Marilyn Stobie