Women in Policing in Pacific Island Countries
Dr Danielle Watson, Prof. Melissa Bull1, Dr Sara Amin, Dr Sinclair Dinnen, Dr Loene Howes
1Queensland University Of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
This paper addresses the current gap in knowledge about the role and experiences of women in policing in Pacific Island Countries (PICs). Little is known about their participation because they account for a small number of police personnel across the region, and data are hard to come by. We draw together information from a range of sources, including published research, annual reports, evaluations of police development programs, research reports and other grey literature. These data indicate that numbers of women police in the Pacific region are growing and women are actively taking on operational roles across all areas of policing – even when their willingness is not always be matched by wider community support in strongly patriarchal societies. This increase in numbers, and growing diversity of roles performed by women, has been aided by factors outside and beyond the initiatives of policing agencies within individual PICs. These include: international frameworks that support the introduction of regional and national policies and practices that balance and mainstream gender inclusivity; environmental factors, including civil unrest; and alarmingly high rates of violence against women and girls. In this paper we outline some of the specific strategies used by policing organisations in PICs to increase the number of women officers and improve the conditions of policing for women. They included recruitment practices that aim to balance the number of female and male recruits, as well as mainstreaming goals like those embedded in the introduction of PICP WAN and support for WANs in each jurisdiction that are well connected to their respective Chiefs of Police. We recognise that the geographical, colonial, political and cultural contexts across the Pacific region are diverse and the pathway into policing for women and achieving equality and equity is a work in progress that challenges, and is challenged by, the complex intersection of gender norms associated with professional policing and those that exist in cultures typically characterised by patriarchal power relationships, together with competing forms of regulatory authority that function alongside, and at times in competition with, or in the perceived or actual absence of, rule of law.
Melissa Bull joined QUT as Director of QUT Centre for Justice in October 2018. Prior to this Melissa worked in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Griffith University. Melissa’s main areas of research include drug regulation and policing diversity. Her current research projects include work focusing on sentencing and drug related offending and policing in Pacific Island Countries. She has published widely on drug regulation and drug control, sentencing and punishment, long term immigration detention, community policing and diversity, counter terrorism narratives and prevention programs, and gender violence in Pacific Island Countries.