Blood Tribe Police Service inspector Farica Prince has been in policing since 2001. In that time, she has been a constable for two different indigenous police services and was an instructional facilitator for the RCMP. She has seen a lot and is a strong advocate for racial and gender equality within Canadian policing circles.
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.
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.”
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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.”
Nearly a year since its inception, the results are promising, but there is still work to do.
As with many of EPS’ Vision 2020 goals, the Crime Suppression and Investigation Division (CSID) was developed to help relieve the frontline from duties that could be handled by other investigative and problem solving teams, thus improving our customer service to our community.
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In 2020, CPB was reorganized by pulling investigations, projects, and community response work out of patrol. CSID Superintendent Shawna Grimes explained why this was done, “We know that putting more tasks onto our frontline hasn’t worked for us historically. Our goal was to allow patrol members time to focus on the calls for service and investigate them well. Nearly a year since its inception, the results are promising but there is much work still to do.”
Inspector Shannon Dechamplain describes how the Investigative Response Teams have succeeded so far, “Originally, you’d have one or two detectives running a major file. Now there is an entire team dedicated. We are doing a good job with front-end loading and assigning an entire team at the onset and as a result, the work being done in the first hours and days of an investigation is creating huge efficiencies.
Frontline members are taking control of initial investigations. Once stabilized, the file is transitioned to the Investigation Response Teams. Whenever there are opportunities, patrol is staying engaged in the investigation to promote the development of skill sets. As result of the work being completed, we have noticed an increased in confidence in us from other areas throughout the EPS.”
Supt. Grimes explained the Division’s focus for 2021, “We have built and implemented the structure of CSID, so the focus for 2021 is evaluating and addressing identified gaps in our service delivery. We are working closely with Community Safety and Well-being Bureau (CSWB) as we see their success as vital to CPB.”
The Crime Suppression Branch, led by Inspector Angela Kemp, focuses on the identification and investigation of problem places, people, and trends. “We want our focus to be communication with our partners and solve problems in a timely manner. We are collaborating with our stakeholders internally and externally in order to achieve lasting positive impacts for our community.”
The three leaders agree that the full potential of CSID has yet to be realized; however, with the ongoing collaborative support across bureaus within EPS, we are working together to reach the goal of creating a safer Edmonton.
What many have also noticed is that for the first time in EPS’ history, we have three sworn females leading an area of our organization. This is not a focal point for the leaders of CSID, as they recognize the talent of future female leaders with EPS.
They are proud of the numerous accomplishments they have had throughout their careers, acknowledging there were substantial barriers when they each first joined EPS. Supt. Grimes expressed, “I know we’ve moved the bar. The women before us paved the way and the women who follow will continue to do the same. There is a satisfaction to that.”
Collectively, Supt. Grimes, Insp. Kemp and Insp. Dechamplain hope their example will inspire future female leaders to find satisfaction in their career and recognize the leadership opportunities available to them.
Formally Alberta Women in Policing, we have made a change to our name; public safety is a shared community responsibility and enforcing the law is only a fraction of what we do every day. As we make moves in policing to change the “us vs them” narrative, language is key. We’re in this together #strongertogether.