“I wanted to be that man,” retired woman Police Superintendent tells
Once you are a Police officer, you will always be a Police officer.
So says retired Police Superintendent, Tavu’i Anne Laumea, whose life of service on the front line was honoured at Taumeasina Island Resort yesterday, as part of International Women’s Day.
Tavu’i was one of the first seven women in the Samoa Police force. Reflecting on a 32-year-career, she took a trip down memory lane, revealing how it all started.
“I was riding my bike when I was stopped by a Constable Penitito in uniform who told me off for riding my bike with a bell. Yes it was an offence,” she said, laughing.
“The police constable was in full uniform and was good looking and I mesmerized over how handsome he was and from that very day, I wanted to be that man.
“Every other day I aspired to be Constable Penitito number 2; and one thing led to another I was shipped off to New Zealand to further my education and I became a nurse and I did not have the stomach for it.”
Tavu’i said at the time she passed the Royal New Zealand examination, however she got married and came home to Samoa in 1958.
“In 1969, the role of women in the police was advertised and I remember how excited I was, but my husband was not on board with it still he supported me.”
The rest as they say is history. Tavu’i’s other female colleagues who entered the force in1969 were Katalina Ieremia-Sefilino, Shirley Theresa Fruean-Talamaivao, Theresa Stowers-Taefu Tavu’i, Mele Vaeau Garner, Mary McFall-Pawitt and Anastacia Carolyn Schmidt.
“I loved what I did and still do,” she said. “I think spouses and families of any police officers, retired and serving knows that once a cop always a cop…. die as a cop.”
Times were tough for women back then, especially in such a male dominated profession.
“God gave me all that I needed to survive this tough profession and that was all I needed, my God, my family and I believed in myself. Becoming a police officer is a big decision anyone can make; it is a life changing career because you have to change and by the time you have sworn in, you must forgo a lot of things.”
Tavu’i was vocal on the importance for one to accept change.
“We all know that everyone is open to changes, and people are so comfortable and they refuse to challenge themselves to grow. And a famous writer once said, everyone thinks of changing the world but no one thinks of changing themselves.”
She also quoted the 44th U.S. President Barack Obama, saying: “We can’t be afraid of change, you may feel very secure of a pond that you are in but if you never venture out of it you will never know there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea holding on to something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why don’t have something better.”
Tavui served through seven different Police Commissioners.
“I dealt with seven different personalities year after year. And my training started as a Constable Laumea the tea lady, the cleaning lady, telephone operator and only for 11 tala a fortnight and $286 per annum for three years.
“My husband called my pay the coconut salary, because there was enough to buy coconuts to feed our pigs.”
Tavu’i said this was the motivation she needed to learn more about the law and her job.
“Everyone knew the barriers that we had to break through back then and I was humbled about it but continued to focus to get my Senior Sergeant position,” she said.
“I passed the exam but I was not given the promotion and finally ten years later I got the promotion.
“I was a tough cookie back then; I was tough and did not focus on the noise around me, and I kept my focus on my passion and no one was going to stop me.
“And with all these challenges I had to pick my battles as there was no need to go head to head with the devil. The only difference between a good day and a bad day was your attitude.”
Today, Tavu’i encouraged the women Police officers to stay focused.
“Stay the course and stay focused; we need to change the way we see the world,” she said.
“We need to be the change we want the women in police to see, as women we need to start appreciate our own worth and each other’s worth. Also to seek strong women to be aligned with and associate and to learn, to support and enlighten by.”
Acting Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa congratulated Tavui and all the Police women of Samoa. Read story on page 7.