Inspiring Women in Policing

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 10:18 a.m. May 6, 2015
Updated: 9:10 a.m. May 7, 2015

While pursuing a criminology degree at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, where she was raised after migrating from England in 1965, Jane Wilcox did a ridealong with a Vancouver police officer on patrol.

Two women in uniform holding a glass award
OWLE President Sergeant Joanne Savoie presents the Heritage Lifetime Achievement Award to former Toronto Police Service Staff Superintendent Jane Wilcox

It was Wilcox’s pairing with that officer that led her to want a career in policing.

“I got hooked,” she said.

After three decades with Toronto Police, where she rose to the rank of Staff Superintendent, the law enforcement leader retired earlier this year.

On May 1, the  Ontario Women in Law Enforcement(OWLE) – she is a member of their advisory council – honoured Wilcox for her outstanding mentorship and leadership skills and her significant contribution to the advancement of women in law enforcement with the Heritage Lifetime Achievement Award.

“This is truly humbling,” she said of the recognition.  

An OWLE member since 1998, Wilcox joined the advisory council five years ago.

“Being part of this council has been an incredible privilege,” she said. “Every year, our members sit around the table and review the amazing accomplishments from the amazing women that are here tonight. We are always humbled and, most of the time, we look at the award nominations and go, ‘what the heck are we doing in our job, these women are beyond belief’.”

In her acceptance speech, Wilcox urged senior police managers to provide women with opportunities in their organizations.

“Continue to allow the women in your Services the opportunity to explore, to try different things and to be given different assignments that will allow your Service to continue to think outside the box,” she said. “That certainly has been an amazing and incredible experience for me with the Toronto Police Service.”

Continue to allow the women in your Services the opportunity to explore, to try different things and to be given different assignments that will allow your Service to continue to think outside the box

Starting at 51 Division in 1985, Wilcox was the Service’s first woman to lead Sex Crimes, before being promoted to Superintendent in 2007 and Staff Superintendent two years later, where she oversaw the Public Safety Operations specialized units.

“That was one of the coolest jobs,” she said of her last assignment. “That was what we used to call ‘boys and toys’ that’s now the ‘officers & tools’ section.”

Public Safety Operations comprises Specialized Emergency Response, the Emergency Task Force, Marine, Police Dog Services, Traffic Services, Special Events, Emergency Management & Public Order and Mounted.

Two years ago, she joined Mounted officers in the annual Santa Claude parade in downtown Toronto.

“Learning to ride a horse was one of the highlights of my career,” she said. “It was hard work, but lots of fun,”

A University of Toronto Master’s graduate, Wilcox was a member of several organizations, including Operation Springboard and the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police Emergency Management, the Canadian Tri-Services Emergency Management Committee and the Asia-Pacific Community Consultative Committee.

I am in awe of the excellence in this room and it’s such a great honour to receive the scholarship

Sergeant Shari Mackay shared the spotlight at the 17th annual OWLE awards that celebrate the achievements of uniformed and civilian police members. She was the recipient of the $1,000 Laurie Hawkins scholarship, presented to a police officer pursuing higher education.

The award is named after the Ontario Provincial Police officer who succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning in December 2008.

“I am in awe of the excellence in this room and it’s such a great honour to receive the scholarship,” said MacKay, who is pursuing a Master’s in Public Administration at Queen’s University. “I have had great mentors like Debbie Preston, Barb McLean and Shawna Coxon who have inspired me to keep learning and growing.”

After graduating this year, MacKay plans to pursue a Master’s in Strategic Foresight and Innovation at the Ontario College of Art & Design.

Starting her career at 54 Division in 1999, after securing a law enforcement diploma from Seneca College, MacKay was assigned to the Organized Crime Enforcement and 32 & 31 Divisions before she was promoted in 2011 and dispatched to 52 Division.

In March 2013, she was assigned to the Chief’s Internal Organization Review  team that examined service delivery models, while looking for opportunities to improve service delivery and efficiencies.

Four years ago, MacKay was honoured with an OWLE and International Association of Women Police Leadership Award for successfully advocating on behalf of a Greater Toronto Area woman who was raped by the manager of the hotel she was staying at during a business trip to Texas.

Through MacKay’s perseverance and tenacity, the accused was found guilty of second-degree sexual assault in October 2008 and sentenced to eight years in a federal penitentiary.

Several Toronto Police members were recognized with Service awards at the event, attended by Acting Chief Mark Saunders.

Deborah Chase was presented with a 35-year medal, Homicide Detective Sergeant Deb Harris, who was nominated for the Community Service and Mentoring Awards, was honoured for 30 years of service while Inspector Barb McLean, Staff Sergeant Karen Smythe, Detective Sergeant Joyce Schertzer, Sergeant Dawn Rose, Detective Caroline Glen, Constable Andrea Patching and Consolacion Arciaga, Margie Delima and Adrienne Magennis were recognized for 25 years of service.

Communications operator Kathy LeBarr and Leslie Koski were nominated in the Civilian Award of Achievement and Community Service Awards categories, respectively, and Detective Constable Anita Mancuso, who recently retired and was the winner of the Excellence in Performance Award, and the Toronto Radio Infrastructure Project were nominated in the Excellence in Performance and Team Endeavours categories

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