Alberta Women In Public Safety
AWIP Supports, Connects and Mentor’s Women
Across Agencies and Advocates for Women in Alberta’s Public Safety Community.
AWIPS is a growing group of women leaders within Alberta public safety agencies working to improve opportunities and outcomes for women in Public Safety. #strongertogether
Our goal is to create an inclusive culture that supports the growth and development of women in Alberta’s Public Safety community.
Stay connected to our Events
Apr018:00 am - 5:00 pm
Mar23This event is online
anywhere in the world,10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Mar09This event is online
anywhere in the world,4:30 pm - 6:30 pm
Alberta’s colours are blue and gold to represent the prairies, mountains and the sky. The morning star acknowledges Indigenous people as it’s part of traditional creation teachings, for many nations.
SASAKTOON — Throughout Cst. Lisa Simonson’s 21-year career as a police officer, she’s wanted guidance from female law enforcement leaders.
She couldn’t find anything formal, though. There were non-profits dedicated to female police and law enforcement officers in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario, but no such organization existed in Saskatchewan.
So she decided to help create one.
Saskatchewan Women in Policing (SWIP) had their first board meeting in November. The eight board members are women in the policing and law enforcement industry from across the province. Simonson, who works in major crimes at the Prince Albert Police Service, is the organization’s inaugural president.
“It’s about the support, the connection, the mentorship, the female-centric training, those professional connections because we want to be there to lift each other up as we navigate our way through this profession, ” she said.
While policing is an exciting and rewarding career, she said, it doesn’t come without challenges – particularly for women.
“I look to overcome, educate and try and break down those barriers,” said Simonson.
She said SWIP includes transgender women and non-binary people.
Michelle Davey, deputy chief of the Delta Police Department in B.C., wrote a master’s thesis in 2020 about female barriers to promotion in Canada’s policing industry. The report includes returning to shift work after maternity leave, pregnancy, tokenism and negative self-perception as barriers for women.
“These barriers exist, in part, because policing as a profession remains male-dominated, with very few women holding senior or supervisory positions,” wrote Davey.
Simonson said she hopes to change that through SWIP and get more women involved in the industry. It’s also important to have female representation while speaking to people on often sensitive subjects, who may be comfortable speaking with a woman over a man, she said.
Simonson explained that the Prince Albert Police Service is about 15 per cent women, slightly below the average of other municipal police services in Saskatchewan.
SWIP’s Vice-President is Insp. Tonya Gresty of the Saskatoon Police Service.
“It’s created an opportunity for me to step into a gap where women are able to access mentors in the leadership roles within the policing community,” she said.
Gresty said there are only four women out of 41 executive members at the table making decisions for municipal police services in the province.
“As one of those members, I feel it’s incumbent upon me to show up and be present and to be accessible as a mentor to women who are coming up in our profession.”
Gretsy added that having female policing mentorship is especially important in smaller communities, where there might be even fewer women in the police service.
Both Simonson and Gresty said the organization has received a lot of support from their police services and associations, as well as the Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers and the Saskatchewan Association of Chiefs of Police.
The board also consists of Sgt. Kimberley Stewart (RCMP), S/Sgt. Laurel Marshall (Regina Police Service), S/Sgt. Marlie Frei (Moose Jaw Police Service), Cst. Andrea Vogel (Saskatoon Police Service) Cst. Danielle Stephany (Estevan Police Service) and Cst. Melinda Mintenko (Weyburn Police Service).
Constable Lisa Simonson of the Prince Albert Police Service (PAPS) became the first-ever president of the Saskatchewan Women in Policing (SWIP).
SWIP was formed to support women in policing and help increase women in leadership roles in the province and officially became a non-profit organization in December 2020.
Simonson said their goal for their members is to create an inclusive and professional environment while focusing on creating a female-centric space for career development. Officers who want to become a member will be able to hear about opportunities in the future. They also want to provide an opportunity for women in policing to connect and have access to training and mentorship.
“The policing and law enforcement community is a male-dominated profession where us women are a minority and there can be barriers for women in policing as they seek advancement or promotion within their respective organizations,” she said. “And collectively, we can work together to break down these barriers and increase women’s representation within leadership roles. More women at the table benefit us all.”
Simonson explained she had a hand in creating SWIP as she was familiar with similar organizations across Canada such as B.C. Women in Law Enforcement, Alberta Women in Policing (AWIP), Ontario Women in Law Enforcement, and Atlantic Women in Law Enforcement. Because there was no such organization in Saskatchewan, Simonson reached out to a former colleague with AWIP who offered to help her get SWIP off the ground.
Since then, many people in these similar organizations have been mentors to SWIP. She reached out to women in senior executive positions and other ranks across multiple police agencies and RCMP to see if there is a need for this type of organization in the province.
“The response was overwhelming in support to develop an organization like this and that one was long overdue,” she said.
They currently have eight board members who are from numerous different police organizations such as president Cst. Lisa Simonson (PAPS), vice president – Insp. Tonya Gresty (SPS), treasurer – Sgt. Kimberley Stewart (RCMP), professional development director – S/Sgt. Laurel Marshall (RPS), membership director – S/Sgt. Marlie Frei (MJPS), promotion/marketing/social media director – Cst. Andrea Vogel (SPS), events director – Cst. Danielle Stephany – (EPS) and secretary – Cst. Melinda Mintenko (WPS).
“I’m extremely proud to work with a great group of like-minded and motivated women,” she said.
They have received “overwhelming support” from various police organizations through donations that go towards their start-up costs and will be applying for grants in the future. She said they’re currently working on a communications strategy and website development.
“I’ve definitely seen over the years how women’s representation within the policing community and culture has increased,” Simonson said. “We can only get better and be role models for the young policewomen who are coming up behind us.”
PAPS Chief Jon Bergen told paNOW they are proud of Simonson.
“Recognized that there was work that could be done here that is being done elsewhere, and she took the lead,” he said. “She looked for support from the organization, and which of course we 100 per cent give, and she reached out to the other police agencies across the province and said, ‘hey let’s get this going’ and here she’s been elected as the president and [it’s] quite fitting. And we definitely commend what she’s doing.”