From salesperson to now a top cop, New Zealand’s first Indian-born female police officer Mandeep Kaur scripted history by achieving the rank of senior sergeant last month. Kaur received her new badge from New Zealand police commissioner Andrea Coster at a ceremony in Wellington. With the increased status, she will now be working from the police headquarters in Wellington.
Having started off as a taxi driver in Auckland, she later shifted gears into law enforcement. Her exemplary career started 17 years ago when she joined the force in 2004. An immigrant from Malwa region in Punjab, Kaur initially moved to Australia in 1999 at 26 before making her move to New Zealand. She worked there as a door-to-door salesperson and recounted how her inability to speak English proved to be an obstacle during the time.
"I was able to read and write but I couldn't really speak. So I had written my pitch on a piece of paper and I would go door to door to sell," she said in a statement to the media.
Riddled with personal battles and cultural barriers, Kaur’s journey to the top ranks of the police has been an arduous one. She was married off at the young age of 18 and gave birth to her first child the following year. Despite being a young mother, Kaur finished her degree successfully, however her marriage ended in 1992.
According to reports, Kaur acknowledges that it was the late John Pegler, a retired police officer whom she affectionately called her ‘Kiwi Dad’ who encouraged her to enter the police force after listening to her ambition of becoming a police officer. She recalled what Pegler told her, “I remember him saying how important it was for New Zealand migrants to have people of their own ethnicity represent them in the police force.”
Leveraging her identity as a woman of colour and an immigrant, one of her previous roles in the force was to act as an ethnic people’s community relations officer at Henderson Police Station in Waitemata. As a part of the job, she was tasked with attending community meetings, hosting media programmes, visiting family violence victims and attending to any other matters where there was a need for ethnic or cultural advice.
During her time with the New Zealand police, she has also worked as a frontline officer, in road policing, family violence, investigation support unit, neighbourhood policing and community policing. As a working mother of two, her efforts have received much appreciation from the community.
Staying true to her Sikh roots, Kaur is a frequent attendee at the Gurudwara in Counties Manukau. She has also formed a New Zealand Police Bhangra dance group which has performed at multiple community events.
(Edited by Amrita Ghosh)