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.
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.
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.’’
Right move: Sergeant Megan Dalton has built a successful career as a police officer.
Trail blazer: Constable Alison Campkin is the first woman to work in the Police Maritime Unit.