The oldest-ever police graduate proves it’s never too late to start your dream career


Photo: NZ Police

It took Lynda Perry 40 years to realize her dream of joining the police, but it’s been worth the wait.

Words: Heather Kidd  

1963 to 1972: On the move

Change has always been central to Lynda Perry’s life. When she was young, it meant multiple moves throughout New Zealand. Her father worked in the railways, and Lynda, the second of three girls, was born in Christchurch. She was seven years old when the family shifted to Wainuiomata.

1979 to 1984: School’s out 

Nine years — and many moves later — 16-year-old Lynda left school for a secretarial course. Her first job was in an office just around the corner from the Whanganui police station. It wasn’t long before the motorbike cops caught her attention. “I loved speed, I even raced a go-kart, and I was interested in motorbikes.” Becoming a motorbike cop seemed the ideal job, so she sauntered into the station one lunchtime and enquired about joining the force. “You’ll need to grow,” she was told. At 164 centimetres, she was deemed too short.

1985 to 1995: Big changes 

But Lynda couldn’t let go of her dream. When living in Auckland and working for Hertz, she discovered the police had dropped its height restrictions. Although she was 29 and a mother to two-year-old son Corbyn, she applied. She passed the physical test but got stymied by the maths component of the psychometric testing. Reapplying was an option, but life got in the way — in Lynda’s case, in the best of ways. In 1995 she met Glenn Perry; seven months later, the couple married and with Corbyn moved to Waiheke.

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1996 to 2003: The busyness of life 

Life on Waiheke meant a daily commute to Auckland until 2001 when son Hunter was born, and Lynda got a part-time office job at Bayleys Realty Group on Waiheke. Two years later, wanting to be closer to their parents, Lynda, Glenn, and the two boys moved to a lifestyle block in Katikati.

2003 to 2020: Real estate

A year after settling in Katikati, Lynda sat her real estate licence and joined the local Harcourts branch. She was with the company for 16 years, including six years in Pāpāmoa.

2014 to 2021: Realizing the dream

While a career in real estate was satisfying, it never became Lynda’s dream job. “I’d see cops and think, ‘Dammit, that could have been me.’”

Even in her 50s, the disappointment remained as fresh and fierce as back when she was a teenager. “It was my biggest regret.”

Lynda’s life changed in July 2019 when she read a story about 52-year-old police graduate Susie Weeks. “I applied that day,” says Lynda. “I didn’t tell anyone, not even Glenn.”

It was failing the eyesight test that forced her hand — she simply couldn’t hide her disappointment. Glenn’s reaction? “He said we’ll do whatever it takes.” Laser eye treatment corrected her short-sightedness.

The next challenge was the physical. Thanks to years of swimming, cycling and running, she was in great shape. She upped her training regime and passed the demanding test. Ahead lay the psychometric testing that had been her undoing almost 30 years earlier, but this time, she was prepared. She studied hard and passed.

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Eventually, with all steps completed, she gained a place at the Royal New Zealand Police College in Porirua and in February 2021, Lynda, aged 57, became the college’s oldest-ever graduate.

2021 to 2022: On the beat

Decades of unrealized dreams and disappointments are a thing of the past. Lynda loves being a police officer.

She’s based in Tokoroa, a station she says is staffed with amazing and supportive people and is enjoying everything about the job. “It’s exactly as I expected it to be. I love going out and interacting with people, no matter the situation.”

And her years working in real estate have helped. “In real estate, you’re dealing with people’s emotions because it’s stressful selling or buying a house. People react differently, and you must work out how to deal with that. It’s the same in the police — you’re dealing with people’s emotions.” She’s also found her age is an advantage as maturity makes her relatable.

“I don’t judge people. I’ve been around long enough to realize the struggles some families face and why they’re in the position they are. You just deal with it.” When Lynda first dreamed of joining the police, she liked the idea of a job spent riding a motorbike. Not anymore. Now, it’s about people and trying to have a positive influence. “It doesn’t happen every day, but I feel like I’m making a difference.”

LIFE LESSONS

Don’t let the ship sail: I came so close to letting my dream go, letting life get in the way of what I wanted to do. Not that I have any regrets about my life — it’s been great — and I’m thankful for my husband, two sons and four grandchildren.

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Age? What about it? In my late 40s, I took up road cycling and was running as well as I’d ever done. I got into triathlons and ocean swimming at the age of 51. More recently, I’ve been learning how to free dive. Due to work, it’s currently on the back burner, but I’m keen to revisit it in the future.

Make family and friends a priority: I do the best I can; I just wish there was more time to catch up with everyone.

NZ Life and Leisure This article first appeared in NZ Life & Leisure Magazine.

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