Otago Coastal Public Safety Team 4 (PST4) may not have existed in years gone by.
More specifically, the gender make-up of the team may not have existed. Of the nine constables currently working in Sergeant Karl Hemmingsen's PST4, five are women. That’s right. A female majority.
Diversity is something New Zealand Police is committed to, with an explicit aspiration for 50 per cent of recruits being female. In this regard,PST4 is a shining example of what New Zealand frontline policing could be.
The most experienced woman in PST4 is Gemma McKenzie, who says that while the perceptions of gender roles on the front line within Police have well and truly shifted, externally some eyebrows are still raised.
“When working in an I-car of two females we sometimes receive comments from the public doubting the capability of the strength of two females - especially when attending incidents involving high-risk offenders," says Gemma.
"Being in a team of females you do physically have to step up and we’re all very strong communicators. We use this to our advantage on the front line.
"We are all quick responders to heightened situations and with this we can resolve problems and tensions quickly.”
The team’s supervisor Sergeant Karl Hemmingsen says aiming for gender diversity and balance on the front line makes perfect sense. “It’s in line with Our Business, and it’s hugely important that we reflect the communities we police in.”
One of the male minority within PST4, Constable Zane Elliman, agrees with his supervisor’s sentiments. “As long as people are bringing their best to the role, which all the women in PST4 do, it makes no difference what the gender make-up of the team is.”
According to Gemma, there are some key positives to having a PST with a gender balance, or a female majority.
“Diverse groups are great for emotional support and relationship-building,” says Gemma. “We can all relate and support each other during difficult personal or work challenges, like juggling family life or talking about our work environment.”