THE FORCE: Police officers from the Coffs Clarence Local Area Command will relay through Coffs Harbour tomorrow to mark 100 years of women in policing. David Barwell
THE FORCE: Police officers from the Coffs Clarence Local Area Command will relay through Coffs Harbour tomorrow to mark 100 years of women in policing. David Barwell David Barwell

A centenary of dedication

WOMEN have been fighting crime in NSW for 100 years, but for much of that time they have also been fighting for equality.

This year marks the centenary of women in the NSW Police Force and to help mark the occasion, a custom-made NSW police baton, which has toured the state over the past six months, will be relayed tomorrow from the Coffs Harbour Police Station to the Jetty Foreshore.

Themed "celebrating compassion, courage and strength", the celebrations will recognise the contributions that women have made to the force and their communities.

One hundred years ago, two women - Lillian Armfield and Maude Rhodes - became the first female police officers in NSW.

Sworn in as probationary special constables, they wore civilian clothing and were required to sign an indemnity releasing the police department of any responsibility for their safety.

It wasn't until 1965 that women were sworn in as regular officers with full police powers and employment conditions.

In the Coffs Clarence Local Area Command area, times have certainly changed.

Today there are 54 female sworn and unsworn officers across the command.

Senior Constable Kehani Smith joined the police force in 1988 and said attitudes had changed, even since then.

"When I look back at the early days, things have certainly changed - today we have as many opportunities as the blokes," she said.

There are still challenges for women working in a 24-hour police force, but Senior Constable Jane Shaw said the issues are nowhere near as challenging as what women would have faced 100 years ago.

"Today there is a degree of job security, flexibility and diversity - it is a great job for women and men."

Detective Senior Constable Kayla McDonnell said women had a lot to offer not only the police force, but the community they served to protect.

"Some of the skills normally associated with women, such as communication, are key to policing," she said.

Tomorrow's relay will start at the Coffs Harbour Police Station at 10am and heads to the Coffs Harbour Water Police Station at The Jetty. Family activities will be held from 11am.



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