Women Find Mentors in Policing

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 11:24 a.m. November 14, 2019
Updated: 11:38 a.m. November 14, 2019

Over 100 women attended the first ever Women in Policing symposium at the Toronto Police College.

Four women on a couch surrounded by a large group seated around them
Deputy Chiefs Barbara McLean and Shawna Coxon, Detective Mary Vruna and Inspector Darla Tannahill spoke about their careers in policing to prospective recruits

Chief Mark Saunders welcomed the attendees and reminded them the Toronto Police Service has come a long way from the days when female officers wore skirts, blouses and pill-box style hats. 

Women now work in every facet of the organization as leaders and contribute at all levels towards the safety and security of Torontonians.

Deputies Shawna Coxon and Barbara Mclean along with Office of the Chief Inspector Darla Tannahill and Det. Mary Vruna, of the Missing Persons Unit, spoke about the challenges they overcame in pursuit of their personal and professional goals and promoted the Service as an option any woman should consider when thinking about a career choice.

Samantha Fermo said the session was very informative.

“It was full of genuine truths that were some of the most honest, raw and human insight into not only what got them where they are, but life in general,” she said. “These women, all established and holding high ranks, presented themselves as mere humans, offering a wealth of knowledge and true enlightenment into what their careers entailed. I left feeling inspired and honoured to have met them.”

Reyhan Balicki, who has a strong interest in becoming a police officer, said the event demonstrated the meaning of inclusivity and reignited the power and motivation that she had lost during her ATS preparation attempts.

“After speaking with the Deputies and the other inspirational women who work for the Service, I found the strength to persevere and work harder than ever before in hopes of joining them one day,” she said. “Their stories were genuine and relatable.”

Talent Acquisition is making connections with women on via various mediums and introducing them to the many career opportunities available at the Toronto Police Service. 

“Reaching out to women who feel they don’t have what it takes to be an officer or that their life circumstances would stand in their way is something we are putting our recruiting efforts towards”, says Recruiting Sergeant Wendy Drummond. “Time and time again, when talking with women at the events we attend, they have the passion to police, but have preconceived ideas of our hiring process that prevents them from seeking a career in law enforcement. We want to break this cycle and let women know important and valuable the role of women are in policing and just how committed we are to having more women represented within our service.”

Since the late Ferne Alexander became the first woman to crack the Toronto Police senior ranks in July 1963, women have been elevated to senior roles in the organization.

Kris Kijewski became the first female president of the Toronto Police Service Senior Officers Organization in 2001 and, four years later, she was promoted as the first female civilian director.

Jane Wilcox was the first female Sex Crimes unit commander, Brenda Radix was the first female civilian promoted to the position of unit commander in charge of the Property and Evidence Management unit, Judy Sandford became the first woman to head the Records Management Services Unit and Kathryn Martin was the Homicide Squad’s first female unit commander.

Anyone who wants to learn more about a career in policing can visit  tps.on.ca/careers


TPS crest watermark