13 May 2019

Diversity in our police force

From Voices, 7:00 am on 13 May 2019

A senior Muslim police officer wants to see an even more ethnically diverse force in the near future.

District Commander for Waitemata, Superintendent Naila Hassan, says following the March attack on Muslim mosques in Christchurch the gap in how the police force reflected the community became very obvious.

NZ Police District Commander Waitemata Auckland's Naila Hassan.

NZ Police District Commander Waitemata Auckland's Naila Hassan. Photo: RNZ / Sara Vui-Talitu

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“We really looked around at our officers to see who could really connect with that community,” she says.

"There aren’t a lot of Muslim police officers, but that has definitely gotten better through the years.“

Naila herself is a proud Muslim, although she kept this fact hidden when she first began working as a cop. Back then she was just 19 years old and didn’t want to stand out and be different.

But these days Naila is very visible. She has been the public face of the New Zealand Police at vigils and gatherings with Muslim and ethnic communities across the country, following the Christchurch terror attacks.

“Yes, it’s still tough to talk about that. This whole thing has been tough and also being part of that community,” she says.

“You are put in front at that moment and you feel the sadness around you - it’s easy to get caught up emotionally.”

Naila’s challenge is to personally work more closely with the Muslim community to ensure their personal safety.

 “You can’t be afraid to show that the New Zealand Police have a human side and I am a very, very proud member of that Muslim community,” she said.

Often, when trying to join the police, immigrants face tougher obstacles than most but for one Chinese officer, Wei Cai, it was a childhood dream come true. In New Zealand, his dream took eight years to become a reality.

Wei spoke two different languages fluently prior to coming to Aotearoa, but admits improving his English was not easy.  

Constable Wei Cai

Constable Wei Cai Photo: RNZ / Sara Vui-Talitu

“Before I came to New Zealand, English was actually my third language. I was actually studying Japanese for like five to six years before I came.”

“So when in 2010 I think I was ready, but actually there was a lot of stuff I needed to catch up on to improve.”

Wei finally made it into police college in 2018 and graduated. He is now a constable at the Wellington Central Police station and wants to encourage other immigrants not to give up if you don’t get in the first time.

“Yeah keep going don’t give up in the recruitment process. It’s not a simple process that you can just rush into it. Definitely, it is a process you need to make your effort and own it and deserve the winning.”

Naila is the Police District Commander for Waitemata and one of a handful of females in Auckland at this top level. She is pleased that there are more women in the force now than when she first started.  

“I do see myself as a bit of a role model and I think that if I can make a difference to women and make a difference to ethnic people and just show them that there are no limits if your heart and mind is in it and you love your job.”