Meet Sergeant Kareene Santoro. After finishing school, she worked as a receptionist for a short time and then went on to be a personal assistant for two years before applying to become a police officer in the WA Police Force – where she has now been for 20 years.
'I was only 21 years old when I joined and worked in the South East Metropolitan District during my probation. I recall taking a step back after about four months in the job and thinking to myself "What am I doing? Here I am, 21 years old and mediating relationships of people who are double my age.' Although I didn't realise it at the time, I think my leadership skills from my sporting background and my ability to communicate with people were the skills that I brought with me to the WA Police Force."
“Originally I was motivated by the idea of not being in an office and the diversity of the work but when I reflect on that time, I was always involved in community activities and helping people and subconsciously I think that was a great motivator as well.”
After graduating from the Police Force Academy, Kareene spent her probation within the South East Metropolitan District before transferring to Geraldton Police Station where she developed a keen interest in investigations. She was a part of the District Support Group conducting enquiries into volume crime and drug offences. After four years she transferred back to Gosnells Police Station working within the inquiry team as a patrol and inquiry officer.
Her interest in teaching and coaching led her to take on a position at the Police Academy as a lecturer in the area of Police Procedures for two years. With her recent knowledge and experience in frontline policing and response to family violence incidents, she took on the role of Family and Domestic Violence Coordinator and restructured the course to be more contemporary and reflective of current police response.
She returned to the South East Metropolitan District and spent five years at Armadale Police Station. One of her roles was to be out on the road daily providing follow up home visits to victims of family violence. “The impact we had in reducing family violence and protecting women and children from violence was extremely rewarding. I learnt a lot during those two years – motivators why women stay and the challenges that the WA Police Force and other agencies face in reducing family violence.”
Kareene is currently a Supervisor at South East Metropolitan Response North where she has been since November 2013. Her role primarily is to manage and supervise the team ensuring they are meeting the unit and organisational goals. “I really enjoy the diversity of this role as I am still out on the frontline responding to tasks and helping members of the community. One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is coaching and developing my staff to become better officers and leaders, and building their capacity to be better decision makers.”
Last year, she was approached by her colleague who told her that they had seen nominations come out for the ACWAP Excellence in Policing Awards and he wanted to nominate her. He went on to explain why he thought she deserved to be nominated which Kareene describes as one of her best memories and truly her proudest professional moment.
"To be recognised by a peer for the work that I have done and continue to do in the field of policing and leadership and to know that I am making a difference made me so proud. In a field of some of the most amazing and inspirational women, I went on to win the award which was a fantastic experience in itself but I will never forgot my colleague who took the time to personally recognise my efforts and nominate me for such a prestigious award.”
“To me, being a leader is about knowing your business and your people. It’s about being adaptive to the needs of your people. My advice for junior officers is to take every opportunity to try new things, both professionally and personally; treat people with dignity and respect and how you would want your family treated if they came into contact with police; always ask lots of questions to obtain as much information as you can; use this information to assess situations and don’t be scared to make a decision; when making a decision, constantly seek feedback and reflect on why you made that decision, what you could have done better and what you have learned from the situation.”
Sergeant Kareene Santoro is a Response Supervisor at South East Metro Response North.