On her third day on the job, Detective Sergeant Pauline Gray made a $100 purchase of cocaine.
Close to five feet in height, the diminutive officer did not fit the profile of a cop when she joined the Toronto Police Service 26 years ago.
“The bad guys were not used to seeing women and people of colour as cops back then,” she said. “They were not ready for us, so investigations became part of my career from a very early stage in the job.”
A Homicide officer for the last 11 years, Gray was recognized for her contributions to policing in the province with the Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award at the 16th annual Ontario Women in Law Enforcement (OWLE) gala in Mississauga.
Each year, OWLE’s advisory council chooses an officer nominated in the Excellence in Performance, Leadership, Community Service, Civilian Award of Achievement and Mentoring categories for this honour. Gray was nominated in the Mentorship category.
“I am over the moon,” she said of the recognition. “It’s gratifying to know that my body of work has value.”
Gray is very passionate about mentoring.
“I have been mentored by people who took the time to support me and keep me in line,” she said.
Her mentors include Deputy Chief Jane Dick, who retired five years ago.
“She told me to own my choices and create a network,” said Gray. “My network is OWLE, which I have been associated with since 1993, and the International Association of Women Police (IAWP). When I need something from another agency, I can always pick up the phone and get a prompt response.”
Growing up, policing was not on Gray’s radar, even though her sister and brother-in-law are RCMP officers. She was serving and managing at restaurants prior to joining the Service.
“I was surprised when I was hired but, once I got to 14 Division, I felt comfortable because, there again, there were mentors who took me under their wings,” she said.
Gray also worked on gambling and heroin investigations, at 13 Division where she was promoted to Sergeant in 1998 and at 11 Division before joining Homicide in 2003.
“My skill-set was conducive to investigations so the natural progression for me was to want to be in Homicide where the learning curve is huge,” she said. “It takes about four years to get settled.”
She leads a team of homicide investigators, overseeing their investigations, distributing work assignments and assembling and assessing incoming information and evidence. She also conducts press conferences, consults with judicial partners, lays charges and sees proceedings through to their conclusion.
Interrogating suspects is one of Gray’s strengths.
“It’s much different from an interview, which is to get basic information,” she said. “Interrogation, for me, is following the rules of the court, first of all. Ultimately, what you want is information from the suspect and you want it to be given lawfully. It’s human nature to want to talk. Getting a person to the point where they are comfortable – or uncomfortable – to tell me what it is they want to tell me is satisfying. I love that psychological chess game.”
Of the over 100 homicides she has investigated, Gray claims there is just one that she doesn’t know who the perpetrator of the crime is.
“In most cases, you know who did it even though it can be frustrating when you can’t get witnesses to come forward,” she said. “It’s just a matter of patience.”
Gray, who is pursuing culinary arts studies at George Brown College, is married to Peel Regional Police Superintendent Paul Thorne. The couple has two daughters.