Northern Region Commander, Assistant Commissioner Carlene York APM, has responsibility for Port Macquarie amid an overall territory covering the NSW coast from the Hawkesbury to the Queensland border and inland to the Hunter. Appointed two months ago, based in Newcastle, she’s in charge of 2265 police and 320 support staff.
I joined the force in 1980; I’ve held various roles including general duties, police prosecutor, staff officer to the deputy commissioner, staff officer of Forensic Services, commander of the Criminal Identification Specialist Branch and director of Forensic Services. I’m spokesperson for Women in Policing and was a founding member of the national commissioners’ advisory committee on women in policing. I’m on multiple committees and working parties: I enjoy both the networking and feeling of accomplishment of working in teams to deliver benefits to NSW Police and the community. I’ve gained various qualifications including graduating from the FBI’s Law Enforcement Executive Development Program. At present I’m doing an Executive Masters in Public Administration. I led significant reform in Forensics, introducing robotics to enhance DNA analysis, a state-of-the-art forensic laboratory, a mobile forensic lab for crime-scene use, mobile fingerprinting devices, and applying new technology to old unsolved crimes.
I was raised in Wagga Wagga in a small family with good country values and followed four family members into policing: my uncle reached the rank of deputy commissioner. I always wanted to be a police officer and didn’t contemplate anything else. I moved to Sydney in my early 20s; the academy was based in Surry Hills. I was looking at school lecturing, teaching children traffic safety, but I’ve enjoyed enormous change in women’s working conditions over my service and significant improvements in choice of duties. I was the first officer to take part-time maternity leave: these sorts of conditions allowed me to stay in the force. Yet at the time I got married I was required to apply to the commissioner to change my name!
I’ve a challenging, sometimes difficult, role but I’m enthusiastic, positively motivated and highly energised and genuinely care about my staff. I value the diversity of my officers and regard them as ethical, professional members of the community who add value at every turn. I really enjoy being a mentor to a number of officers and being a role model for police, particularly police women. The suicide of one of my officers was the most distressing experience of my career, and the feeling of helplessness and guilt, when you question what more could have been done. It’s driven me to ensure our officers remain healthy and emotionally strong. I drive home the message that we need to take care of ourselves, have lots of interests outside work and have fun in our lives to remain healthy.
Our command’s enjoying building a number of new police stations – in some areas, well and truly due. There’ve been significant advances in decreasing burglaries, assaults and robberies and we are focused on dealing with alcohol-related crime, domestic violence and serious traffic accidents. I’m extremely happy in my new role and have already visited many areas, met our hard-working officers … and eaten countless scones and cakes. My main challenge is to build on the good work done by police and find innovative strategies to further decrease crime. I want potential offenders to know there’s a real chance of getting caught.
From a personal perspective, my most memorable moments have been my children’s births. I never anticipated the change it would bring, but also the joy and excitement of watching them grow into confident happy young adults. Being a working mother and an executive’s wife means a busy life but being involved over the years with school and sports and the social activities that come with both those roles has proven a good work-life balance for policewomen is achievable. My son’s just completed an economics degree and my daughter’s taking a gap year in Europe.
I’m very active at swimming and walking and I love travelling. I’ve also recently taken up boxercise, which is a challenge! I have to admit I love watching police shows on TV and even though I know it’s just acting … I love to see them catch the crooks!