Do the names Laurency Harris or Minnie Miller mean anything to you? Probably not, eh?
Or, maybe some of you roller derby fans are thinking Miller is the sensational Skinny Minnie Miller from the 1970s.
Sadly, no. Harris and Miller were the Vancouver Police Department’s first female officers. In fact, when the duo was sworn in way back in 1912, they were the first women in Canada to serve as cops.
In the 100-plus years since then, the VPD has seen its female ranks grow and now has 326 officers, or 27 per cent of the force. Seven female officers are at the rank of inspector, which is among the top classifications in the department behind superintendent, deputy chief and chief. The VPD has never had a female chief, although Carolyn Daley came close when she retired about a decade ago as a deputy chief.
This Saturday (March 9), the VPD is holding an information session at the Justice Institute in New Westminster solely for women interested in joining the department.
“The goal is to have a department that mirrors the city,” said Const. Brian Montague, a media liaison officer with the department.
While more women are being sought for the VPD, there was a time in the late 1970s when the department stopped hiring women so a study could be conducted to see if they were effective on the job.
Respected cop Val Harrison, who retired in 2005 after 30 years in uniform, told me that. And this is what else she said when I interviewed her a few days before her last day on the job.
“The study came out and said we were effective. It found we do some things differently than men, but we tend to use less force than men, we tend to take less sick time and we tend to get in less discipline problems than men.”
Safety team coming together
In other police news involving women, Police Chief Jim Chu says 20 per cent of the 200 applicants for the new community safety team are women.
The team will be composed of 30 unarmed peace officers whose role will be to respond to more mundane and simple tasks such as traffic control, provide security at crime scenes and respond to non-emergency break-in calls.
Half of the applicants are what Chu described as visible minorities or aboriginal, with the average age being 29, although one applicant is more than 60 years old. The team could be in place by the summer.
If you’re one of those dedicated so-media types who follows me on Twitter, you already know the City of Vancouver’s go-to PR person Wendy Stewart is moving on to another job. But she’s not going far. In mid-April, Stewart will become the city’s director of legislative operations and deputy city clerk.
What will she be doing? I’ll let city clerk Janice MacKenzie answer that.
“Her work will support several key strategic initiatives including facilitating the city’s interface with Metro Vancouver and First Nations’ councils, helping to improve the public’s civic election experience by increasing innovation in voter outreach and working with the province to help realize online voting and working with city council and the city clerk to enhance and modernize the processes by which the public interacts with council.”
Stewart’s replacement, who will have to take calls from pests like me, hasn’t been named.