Edmonton RCMP aim to recruit more women officers
Const. Penny Gavin to host Women in Policing presentation on Tuesday
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Police encounter many situations where a woman is best suited for the job.
So when men make up almost 80 per cent of a police service, sometimes the people who call 911 don’t get the help they’re seeking.
Edmonton RCMP Const. Penny Gavin said she’s had numerous calls in her 12-year career where complainants specifically needed to talk to a woman.
“Mainly it’s domestic situations, where you have a female that only wants to speak to a female officer. Or situations where it’s sexual assault, they only want to speak to a female officer. So it helps if you have members at your detachment that’s able to handle those type of situations,” she said.
The RCMP set a 10-year-goal in 2015 to increase the percentage of women in the service from 21.5 per cent to 30 per cent.
Gavin, who works in recruiting, is hosting a "Women in Policing" presentation at K Division headquarters Tuesday for women who want to become Mounties, where they learn and can ask her questions they might not feel comfortable asking in front of men.
“A lot of females can certainly do the job, it’s just whether or not they believe in themselves to be able to do it,” Gavin said.
She said she has never felt her gender was a barrier in policing, but she attributes that to strong role models she had growing up in a small Newfoundland town where her volleyball coach, a close friend’s sister, and her brother-in-law’s sister were all RCMP officers.
While Gavin wanted to be an officer since high school, her parents convinced her to go to university. She got a Bachelor of Science and became an animal nutritionist, but that didn’t stick.
“I was away on a conference when I witnessed an 87-year-old lady being mugged by a little punk. And when I got back to work I was like, you know what, I think I’d like to try out,” she said.
“I had three really good, strong female influences when I was growing up that were already RCMP officers. So I knew it was very doable if I had met the requirements.”
The RCMP settled a class-action sexual harassment suit earlier this year brought forth by women who said they were harassed while working as officers since 1974, when the force first started taking women recruits.
Gavin said she could only speak to her personal experience with the RCMP, which has been positive.
While some detachments are at gender parity, she said others might only have one woman on a team of 15, and the staffing department is working to level out those numbers.