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Loving life on the thin blue line

Constable Rachel MacKenzie of Masterton loves her job with the Criminal Investigation Branch. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

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Constable Rachel MacKenzie dreamed of being a policewoman for two decades before she took the plunge.

Now, five years on, the 42-year-old is working in the Wairarapa Criminal Investigation Branch and loving every minute of it.

She enjoys the diversity of the job and says anyone who has a passion for helping people and making a positive difference would be a good fit in the police force.

“You never know what you’re going to be dealing with day-to-day – every day is different.”

MacKenzie spoke to the Times-Age after the release of a new police recruitment video, which aims to attract a diverse range of people with different backgrounds, experiences and interests.

The three-minute video stars 60 real police and outlines, in a humorous way, the attributes and requirements needed to join the police force.

There’s no height restriction, but applicants must have reasonable eyesight, a full drivers’ licence, and be able to swim.

Once a sworn-in police officer, recruits will work on the front line for two years before getting the opportunity to diversify into more than 30 different career options.

MacKenzie, who went to West School, Masterton Intermediate School, and Wairarapa Collage, was drawn to the investigation side of things.

“I wanted to head in that direction, so I prepared by completing various courses, like a basic investigators course, a women’s development course and level two interviewing.”

She is now working with the Tactical Crime Unit that is attached to the CIB, which deals with murders, drugs, robberies and burglaries.

“We deal with more serious crimes that require investigation.”

MacKenzie, a mother of three teenage children, first considered joining New Zealand Police when she was 18, but went on to get a university degree.

She then got married and had a family, and it wasn’t until 2008 that she took her dream off hold and applied to be a policewoman.

MacKenzie spent five years on a waiting list, but in 2012 got the go-ahead to start her training at the Royal New Zealand Police College in Porirua, Wellington.

Police college was “intense”, she said.

“You’re certainly put through your paces. There’s a lot of assessments, a lot of role playing.

“There’s lots of tactical stuff like learning tasers, batons, handcuffing, firearms training, driver training, and you need to learn a lot of legal stuff as well. You need to get your head around the laws.”

MacKenzie said the biggest challenge after graduating was getting used to the shift work, and juggling family and social life.

However, in her new role with the CIB she has regular weekday hours.

She said having empathy and being a team player and a good communicator were important attributes to have as a police officer.

Her advice to people considering a career with New Zealand police is “just do it”.

“Give it a go. It’s a great job with good security. You meet heaps of great people along the way and there’s so many diverse career options within the organisation.”

These included the Armed Offenders Squad, Search and Rescue, Dive Squad, Youth Aid, Road Policing, and Family Harm.

The Government has promised 1800 new police officers over the next three years – 101 new staff will be rolled out in the Wellington district, which includes Wairarapa.

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