In 1974 one of the most popular tv programs was “Police Woman” starring a glamorous Angie Dickinson. She played the lead character named Sgt. “pepper” Anderson. The whole premise seemed far fetched and not based in reality at all.
That same year the OPP opened its doors to women for the first time. The Commissioner of the day was under pressure from the Ontario Government to improve the OPP – “clean it up” was the threat or it would be abandoned. The OPP Commissioner was dead against women in policing, but under pressure, he allowed it. That year 15 women were recruited by the end of the year 39. The OPP hasn’t looked back ever since.
Detachments in North Eastern Ontario Wednesday celebrated the 40th anniversary of Women in the OPP. Many sharing stories of their time and the fight for equality and how the Police service embraces the move.
Monique Baker, an officer with the Sault Detachment is celebrating her 25th year in the force that started in Chapleau. “I knew in high school this was something I wanted to do” Baker told Saultonline.com
“Being able to help people, having the opportunity to make a difference in the town I’m living in” Baker moved to the Sault detachment about 12 years ago. “When I cam on the women were still wearing the old style meter maid hats, there were changes like that along the way”
In 1974, the woman had equal pay but different uniforms – which many complained hindered their ability to do their jobs. While men had pants as uniforms, the women had skirts and a handbag that fit onto the holster.
“it’s quite remarkable to have seen the evolution of women policing over the 40 year period. Ken Leppert Superintendent OPP North East Division. “It brings that diversity, different perspective, Women in policing has certainly helped the OPP with the service of delivery and diversity across the province”
Heather Lacey never expected to be a police women, she’ll tell you that it wasn’t on her radar as a young woman, but a shooting in the town she was living led her to talk to OPP officers “One in particular asked me to try out” After giving it some thought she decided to join” You know what , I can make a difference”
Lacey recalls her swan song moment on the force dealing with a child abduction. “when I worked at General Headquarters down in Toronto, there was a parental abduction in Sable Beach the investigation led us down into the states and into Mexico, but we got the boy back and the criminal team arrested the father, but that was one moment that I remember turning that little boy back over to his mom”
Lacey retired in 2009.
Baker encourages young women to explore the possibilities of a policing career, “there’s such a wide variety to choose from, from forensics, crime work or just being a patrol officer, every day is different and it can be very rewarding”