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Issue No. 411 March 2017

Equal to the task

When Constable Carrenna Isaac quit school, her options seemed limited. Now she watches over prime ministers and other VIPs as a member of Protection Services.

‘Surrounded by a team I consider brothers’. Carrenna and some of her PS colleagues.
Photo: Stephen Matthews, Ten One

Growing up in Whangarei, I was the black sheep of the family, leaving school aged 14.

Joining Police seemed unachievable but determination and hard work saw me graduate from Police College in 2008, embarking on a life-changing journey.

I was drawn to Protection Services (PS) after seeing the boys in action during a Prime Minister’s visit. I didn’t know such a thing existed so it sparked curiosity.

Seeking a challenge I met with Protection Officers (POs) who shared their stories. I was sold.

Selection was humbling. I had a lot to work on physically. I learnt a lot about myself, but the more time I spent training the easier it got.

District selection was my first taste of what lay ahead. Of six applicants, I was the only female. Doubt set in when I compared myself to the lads beside me.

That changed after the first round of beastings for missing kit. That punishment was something I would learn to grow accustomed to. Of the six who started that day, three made it through - I was one of them.

Next step - national selection. There was nothing pretty about it.

It was encouraging to see another woman on the course. We forged a friendship through fireman carries, body drags across fields and going toe-to-toe in boxing sessions.

There’s something about being thrust into challenges with strangers and working through them as a team. That’s what I thrive on. We both made it to the end but for me, it wasn’t meant to be – that time.

Disheartened, it took some time to get over myself. The turning point was seeing Detective Sergeant Elizabeth Williams promoting Five Foot and Fearless, her story about being New Zealand’s first female Armed Offenders Squad member.

Reading it was an inspiration which compelled me to contact her. Her advice was simple - do it again. That was the push I needed. The rest is history.

I’ve been a PO for four years now. Most of that time I’ve spent as a part-time district PO in Hamilton, recently moving to join Wellington PS as the sole woman on the team.

I feel at home at work, surrounded by a team I consider brothers. Development opportunities are plentiful and a majority of protected persons are female so the presence of more female POs is always welcomed.

It still overwhelms me when I reflect on this journey. The places I’ve been, people I’ve met and friendships I’ve built along the way.

I learnt it doesn’t always work out the first time, but you never know what you’re capable of until you push past what seems impossible.

Whatever you aspire to, nurture that, give it time and slowly it will become a reality.

Be humble, be strong and – most importantly - enjoy the journey.

Protection Services

  • Protection Services provides close protection to the government executive, including the Governor-General and Prime Minister, and visitors with international protected status.
  • It has 71 full-time members based at PNHQ and in Auckland, and another 139 part-time members in districts.
  • “Carrenna is one of only two full-time female POs – we need more,” says O/C Inspector Greg Phillips. “We welcome applications from female and male staff and there are no free passes: applicants compete equally and are appointed on merit.”

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