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Global recognition

A scholarship to a “women in policing” conference in Boston in 2004 set Christchurch Police officer Dorothy McPhail, above, on a journey that has led to New Zealand Police securing the rights to host a major international policing event.

Dorothy, a retired CIB supervisor, was a driving force behind Police’s successful bid for the International Association of Women Police (IAWP) Conference, to be held in Auckland in September 2023 as a joint event with the Australasian Council of Women and Policing (ACWAP).

It’s a coup for Police and a source of great satisfaction for Dorothy, who has been a champion for both organisations for many years.

At the time that Dorothy applied for and won the scholarship to the Boston IAWP event, she was a detective sergeant working with the crime squad in Papanui, Christchurch.

“The conference was so interesting and it made me realise how lucky we are in New Zealand in terms of the training and facilities we have, and not being fragmented like they are in North America,” she says.

She also notes that New Zealand has made better progress on getting more women into Police (about 20% of constabulary staff in 2016) than some other countries. “It’s still only about 10 per cent in North America.”

Dorothy was so impressed with the work of the IAWP, particularly its strategies for promoting women in policing, that she funded her own trips to several subsequent conferences, including Saskatoon, Canada, in 2006 and Darwin, Australia, in 2008.

While at the Darwin IAWP conference she became aware of ACWAP and in 2009 she joined the ACWAP committee. Since then, she has also promoted the ACWAP conferences, which are more convenient as a destination for people from New Zealand.

“Getting involved in these groups kept me in Police!” Dorothy says. “It has been motivating and inspiring, and I have also been able to share best practice from New Zealand with police officers from other parts of the world.”

The IAWP and ACWAP conferences are open to all genders and all law enforcement agencies.They hold workshops and training seminars and provide development opportunities, as well as encouraging and inspiring women in policing internationally.

Both organisations hold award events, with New Zealand staff having received recognition over the years at the annual awards ceremonies and giving presentations at the conferences.

An impressive opening parade, with members from the police forces of many countries, is a highlight of each IAWP conference. Dorothy was a flag bearer in the Parade of Nations at the 2017 combined IAWP/ACWAP conference in Cairns.

Dorothy worked on the successful 2023 bid proposal with several other Australian and New Zealand police members. From the New Zealand side, deputy chief executive Kaye Ryan was the executive sponsor, and the bid was supported by former Police Commissioner Mike Bush and current Commissioner Andrew Coster.

The theme for the 2023 conference, which could attract up to 1000 attendees, is “Refresh Renew, Refocus”. It is expected to be well supported by Australia, but there is likely to be law enforcement representatives from as far away as Ghana and Guyana, Dorothy says.

A director will be appointed to oversee the Auckland conference, but it won’t be Dorothy. She will provide support, but she is also busy as the editor of the ACWAP’s thrice-yearly journal and being the co-chair on the IWAP scholarship committee – a fitting role for someone who has reaped the benefits of the scheme.

Dorothy, who is married with two grown children, retired from Police in August after a 35-year career.

Plans for the 2023 conference are in the early stages; further information will be publicised when it is available.

The history of the IAWP stretches back more than 100 years.

It was founded in 1915 as the International Association of Policewomen (IAP) by Alice Stebbins of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Alice was a fervent trailblazer for women in police, believing they were better equipped than men for dealing with young offenders and female criminals. She was also a supporter of the temperance movement. In the early part of last century, abstinence from alcohol and the advancement of women often went hand in hand.

Her persistent lobbying of the LAPD paid off, and in 1910 she was given “Policewoman’s Badge Number One”. She wasn’t allowed to carry a firearm and she had to make her own uniform, but she made an indelible mark on policing.

The IAP, which evolved into the IAWP in 1956, has continued to seek equality and recognition for female members of law enforcement agencies worldwide.

It now includes members from 73 countries, holds annual training conferences in a different location worldwide each year and embraces diversity and inclusion, continuing the traditions established by the founders.

More information about IAWP and ACWAP can be found at and

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