The Thin Blue Line Is in the Pink
Although women were often employed as civilian “police matrons” (mature women who searched and escorted arrested females to their cells and monitored their well-being) “policewomen” were not hired until 1961. The topic was broached by Chief Robert W. Nesbitt during the meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners on February 14, 1961, at which time the Board resolved that “Chief Nesbitt be authorized to appoint a police woman to the force at the commencing salary of $3,000 and to make arrangements for her training at the Police School in Toronto.” Notably, the salary for a male probationary constable in 1961 was $3,603.60, and the collective agreement specified a police matron’s salary as $3,693.82.
On March 9, 1961, the Board of Police Commissioners appointed Irene S. Cole to the new position of Policewoman, effective March 27, 1961. Lois Yvonne Hill (November 13, 1961) and Mavis Orser (October 1, 1963) were the next appointees. However, early policewomen were not viewed as a traditional police officers. They worked only day shifts and were only allowed to drive an unmarked police vehicle. Their limited duties included shadowing the police matron. Moreover, they received no additional training and therefore had no ability to possess or carry a firearm. Their uniform consisted of a skirt, shirt, jacket, and a female version of the forage cap, as well as the requisite hosiery and oxfords, even though this ensemble was no match for standing at intersections for crossing guard duty in winter conditions.
Linda Paul, hired in December 1966, in many ways cleared the path for those who followed in her footsteps. In the early 1970s, she approached the Police Association about obtaining equal pay for female police officers. The Association supported her, she and the only other policewoman at that time, Lois Knight, were successful in winning the right to equal pay. In 1970 Linda was part of the first class of female officers to attend the Ontario Police College for recruit training, and her promotion to the rank of sergeant in 1981 was another first for women in the force. She left the department in June 1988 after a rewarding career of 22 years to explore other employment opportunities.
In the latter part of the 20th century more women started to pursue a career in policing with the Kingston Police, and now female officers work throughout the organization. Many have pursued promotional opportunities. Antje McNeely, hired in April 1985, holds the distinction of being the first female officer to be promoted to the ranks of staff sergeant (December 2001), inspector (January 2007), and Deputy Chief (July 2011). She also was appointed as Acting Chief of Police from the time of Chief Tanner’s departure in September 2012 until the appointment of Chief Larochelle in June 2013.
The first generation of policewomen in Kingston had no female role models with whom they could identify, yet both men and women choose policing as a career for the same reasons: to help people, keep the peace, and be part of a team working towards the common goal of a safe and secure community.