Chal­leng­ing the sta­tus quo

This year po­lice launched a re­cruit­ment cam­paign aimed at at­tract­ing women to the job. Re­porter Emma Whit­taker heard from three serv­ing po­lice women about what it is like to be part of the thin blue line.

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

A lot of peo­ple are shocked when Con­sta­ble Ali­son Camp­kin tells them what she does for a liv­ing.

She is the first woman to work in the Po­lice Mar­itime Unit and the only woman in the Auck­land sec­tion.

‘‘I still get asked a lot what I ac­tu­ally do on the boat. I tell peo­ple I put on my pi­nafore and make the tea. It amazes me that peo­ple be­lieve me,’’ she says.

As a se­nior launch­mas­ter she skip­pers the po­lice launch Deo­dar III.

She joined the unit eight years ago after two years as a front­line po­lice of­fi­cer.

‘‘I knew I was go­ing to be in for a tough time that’s for sure. You’re work­ing with guys who have a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence, so I knew that when I came here it would be a chal­lenge.

‘‘In an in­dus­try dom­i­nated by males, and an en­vi­ron­ment where we are not con­sid­ered equal, it is im­por­tant in keep­ing with the 21st cen­tury to chal­lenge the sta­tus quo.’’

‘‘My apho­rism is ‘ take the ini­tia­tive, don’t be afraid to face your fears and whether you are a man or woman, the job has to be done’,’’ she says.

Deo­dar III is wa­ter.’’

Camp­kin is in­volved in ev­ery­thing from search and res­cue op­er­a­tions, to body re­cov­er­ies and su­per­vis­ing events like boat races.

A chal­leng­ing mo­ment that sticks in her mem­ory is when she was in­volved in the re­cov­ery of a body from the wa­ter in a 40 knot wind with a 2 me­tre swell.

‘‘Although the re­cov­ery was pre­car­i­ous, it meant that the fam­ily had clo­sure by the re­trieval of their loved one,’’ Camp­kin says.

‘‘A small funny story that I re­call is be­ing ad­vised of a body on a

‘‘like a po­lice car on beach, ly­ing face down, that had been in that po­si­tion for a cou­ple of hours.

‘‘Upon walk­ing up to the body, it sud­denly moved. The per­son had been sun­bathing and had fallen asleep,’’ she says.

Camp­kin be­came a po­lice of­fi­cer at 39.

She ap­plied to join at 19 but was told she was too young.

Work­ing on the po­lice boat had been a goal for a while.

‘‘I’d seen the boat when I was much, much younger and had al­ways as­pired to go on it.

‘‘And of course I love the Camp­kin says.

Achiev­ing her

first

sea,’’

mar­itime qual­i­fi­ca­tion is a high­light of her time with the unit.

‘‘Most im­por­tant is get­ting a foothold in the male dom­i­nated work­place be­cause the mo­ment you join, all eyes are on you. It be­comes im­per­a­tive then for the woman to prove her­self. In or­der to es­tab­lish her­self, she ends up putting in ex­tra ef­fort and time.

‘‘Be­ing a woman means do­ing things 150 per cent bet­ter and tak­ing on more roles than a male coun­ter­part,’’ she says.

There have been a few sur­prises for Con­sta­ble Man­reet Bassi in her three years on the job.

‘‘It is what I ex­pected but you get to see the other side of things that other peo­ple don’t see,’’ she says.

The One­hunga res­i­dent works in one of Avon­dale Po­lice Sta­tion’s Pub­lic Safety Teams, at­tend­ing rou­tine 111 calls.

The 23-year-old has been a po­lice of­fi­cer since 2011.

She spent a year study­ing law and sports sci­ence at univer­sity but at just 19 she de­cided the ca­reer path wasn’t for her.

‘‘When I was at uni I had classes at 8am but I would get up at 5am to go for a run. It was in the back of my head the whole time,’’ she says.

‘‘Half­way through the year I re­mem­ber com­ing home and telling mum and dad that’s what I wanted to do. They were re­ally sup­port­ive.

‘‘I’ve al­ways wanted to do it pretty much since I was lit­tle. It’s just about help­ing peo­ple. Just do­ing some­thing where I’m phys­i­cally out there in the com­mu­nity,’’ she says.

‘‘When I did join a lot of peo­ple were like ‘Are you sure you want to do it? You’re tiny’.

‘‘I guess be­ing so young I didn’t ex­pect there to be so many ag­gres­sive peo­ple.

‘‘Most peo­ple are big­ger than me but I’ve never had a sit­u­a­tion where I have been su­per-scared. I guess you have trust in your part­ner as well and you have all of your ap­point­ments if you need them.

‘‘I’ve only had to use my [pep­per spray] twice.

‘‘I try to talk to peo­ple and

it usu­ally works most of the time,’’ she says.

Learn­ing to leave work at work was a bit of a chal­lenge at first.

‘‘See­ing stuff that hap­pens to other peo­ple can be tough and you can only do the best that you can,’’ she says.

‘‘My favourite jobs would be the car-knock­ers and bur­glars. But on the other end get­ting to help peo­ple.’’

Bassi re­calls a case where a vic­tim of an ag­gra­vated rob­bery was kicked, had a knife held to him and his car stolen by three oth­ers.

The of­fend­ers were caught and the vic­tim got his prop­erty back as a re­sult of the work done by Bassi and oth­ers.

‘‘It all worked out. He was so happy. It was just such a good feel­ing,’’ Bassi says.

She has spent most of her po­lice ca­reer so far on the front line but did a short stint with the Avon­dale Tac­ti­cal Crime Unit which deals with crime like bur­glary.

After 18 years Megan Dal­ton still looks for­ward to com­ing to work.

The re­cently ap­pointed sergeant in charge of the Pon­sonby Com- mu­nity Polic­ing Team has seen a num­ber of changes in the way things are done in her time.

‘‘The fo­cus has def­i­nitely changed a lot from when I joined in 1996, from prob­a­bly a re­ac­tive men­tal­ity, to a fo­cus more on pre­vent­ing crime.

‘‘For me this job is quite an ex­cit­ing thing to be in­volved in,’’ she says. Most po­lice of­fi­cers work shifts. Dal­ton is a mother and has had to jug­gle work and home com­mit­ments to reach this point in her ca­reer.

‘‘When I joined I didn’t have chil­dren so you don’t re­ally know what kind of im­pact it will have on you un­til you have them.

‘‘I’ve been very lucky in that I have a very sup­port­ive ex­tended fam­ily. Although, they are ag­ing now and with the age of my chil­dren it has been a chal­lenge.

‘‘It has meant I have been un­able to pro­mote from sergeant to se­nior sergeant be­cause, for me, there are dif­fi­cul­ties with shuf­fling fam­ily com­mit­ments with shift work,’’ she says.

There are some jobs within po­lice that al­low flex­i­ble work­ing hours.

Polic­ing and parenting cer­tainly isn’t an im­pos­si­ble bal­ance but it is some­thing to con­sider, Dal­ton says.

Tak­ing on a com­mu­nity polic­ing role is a bit of swing away from what Dal­ton has done in the past in­clud­ing work­ing with in­ves­tiga­tive units and an at­tach­ment to the drug squad.

‘‘I think the part of polic­ing I en­joy, now that I have been in it a longer amount of time, is work­ing col­lab­o­ra­tively with the com­mu­nity to help re­duce crime.’’

There isn’t much Dal­ton doesn’t en­joy about her job.

‘‘But there are some things we en­counter.

‘‘It is not very nice telling peo­ple that one of their loved ones had just died or deal­ing with some quite hor­rific crimes but you do learn to shut off a lit­tle bit.’’

dif­fi­cult

Right move: Sergeant Megan Dal­ton has built a suc­cess­ful ca­reer as a po­lice of­fi­cer.

Pho­tos: EMMA WHIT­TAKER

Trail blazer: Con­sta­ble Ali­son Camp­kin is the first woman to work in the Po­lice Mar­itime Unit.

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