Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Female officers force to be reckoned with

Recruitment drive looking to bump up low numbers

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Why would a woman consider a career with an employer facing a class-action suit for allowing the sexual harassment, verbal abuse and bullying of its female employees? Why would a woman want to join an institution where a decision is made to mark International Women's Day with a fashion show?

In the case of the RCMP, recruits are paid very well. Canada's national police force has committed to significantly bumping up the number of women in uniform by 2025 and promised to promote more women to its senior ranks. Under significant pressure from government and outside forces, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said recently he wants half of all new recruits to be female within the next two years.

Last year, Paulson revealed an internal audit of the RCMP's workforce proved a "clear, unassailable" bias against the promotion of women in the upper ranks.

The Winnipeg Police Service, which is holding the fashion show, says the event is a way to fundraise for an international conference of women police officers to be held in the city next year. As for the optics of holding such a stereotypical event, Sgt. Sandra Martin says the show will highlight uniforms worn by female police officers over the years as well as business attire for professional women.

At least they're not having an International Women's Day bake sale.

Only 14 per cent of uniformed Winnipeg police officers are women. The national average is 17 per cent. The RCMP have 15,000 male officers and 4,000 female officers.

A Winnipeg recruiting fair held Thursday to attract women to policing jobs was sparsely attended in its first hour. The RCMP sent Const. Izza Mian to promote the advantages of joining the force.

She's a powerful weapon.

Mian laughed when she talked about telling her Muslim mother about her decision to enter law enforcement.

"In my culture, it's either health care or engineering," she said. "My mother was in shock because traditionally in Pakistan police are looked at very differently."

Mian said training was tough and there were days when she didn't think she'd make it. She's glad she persevered.

"I wanted variety. I wanted to move around the country."

A recruit fresh out of training will earn $51,000 annually. After six months, she's bumped up to $70,000. After 36 months, she'll earn $80,000.

That's more than most people in their late 20s can dream of taking home.

Mian was willing to talk about the black cloud of sexual harassment hanging over the RCMP.

"I can speak only on my experience," she said. "I haven't experienced that."

The RCMP is under new management, she said, and significant changes have been promised.

Sgt. Sandra Martin, one of only 221 female officers in Winnipeg, also cited the wages as a plus for women.

"We are very well-paid. If you were to compare the average income for women across the board, (our) salaries are well above the average."

She said the police culture has shifted as more women have climbed the ranks, fashion shows aside.

"People on my shift, I set a tone we're going to be respectful."

She said there's a trend away from young people applying to police forces.

"It's shift work. Policing generally is not a glamorous profession."

Allie Blatz, 24, has moved through the application process with the Winnipeg police. She passed her written test and the arduous physical.

She was at the recruiting fair to see what other law-enforcement jobs are out there.

"I want to do something where I'm not stuck in an office and where I'm out helping the citizens of Winnipeg."

Canada's police forces need women like Izza Mian and Sandra Martin to act as role models. They have to counteract the television stereotype of female detectives who run around in tank tops and tight jeans. They need to prove policing can be a secure and welcoming job for women.

Actually, their employers have to prove that. They have to demonstrate that their female officers will be granted the same respect and opportunities as their male colleagues.

lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 8, 2013 A9

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About Lindor Reynolds

National Newspaper Award winner Lindor Reynolds began work at the Free Press as a 17-year-old proofreader. It was a rough introduction to the news business.

Many years later, armed with a university education and a portfolio of published work, she was hired as a Free Press columnist. During her 20-plus years on the job she has written for every section in the paper, with the exception of Business. She’ll get around to them some day.

Lindor has received considerable recognition for her writing. Her awards include the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ general interest award and the North American Travel Journalists Association top prize.
Her work on Internet luring led to an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada and her coverage of the child welfare system prompted a change to Manitoba Child and Family Services Act to make the safety of children paramount.

She has earned three citations of merit for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism and has been awarded a Distinguished Alumni commendation from the University of Winnipeg. Lindor was also named a YMCA/YWCA  Woman of Distinction.

She is married with four daughters. If her house was on fire and the kids and dog were safe, she’d grab her passport.
 
lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

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