On Sunday night, the police constables serving all of Saanich were all female.
It’s a moment the department celebrated online, but Saanich Police Chief Dean Duthie says, shouldn’t be unique.
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— Saanich Police (@SaanichPolice) November 13, 2023
“It is vital because our job is to serve the public and help the public feel safe and keep them safe. And in order to do that, the public has got to feel that their backgrounds, them as people, are reflective in the police department that’s serving them,” said Duthie.
To help build the trust of the people they serve, Saanich Police made a promise to have 30 per cent female representation in their ranks by 2030. They’ve reached that goal, but still have work to do in middle management.
“Having representation in various ranks right from the constable right to the executive officer level, this is an area we need to do better in,” admitted Duthie.
More than a year ago, Saanich Police was one of the first forces in Canada to join the 30×30 Initiative, with Regina, Brandon, Edmonton, and Delta then following suit.
“Research shows women officers use less force and less excessive force; are named in fewer complaints and lawsuits; are perceived by communities as being more honest and compassionate; see better outcomes for crime victims, especially in sexual assault cases; and make fewer discretionary arrests,” says the 30×30 Initiative website, which is a coalition of police leaders, researchers, and professional organizations who have joined together to advance the representation and experiences of women in policing agencies across the United States.
Dr. Vidal Chavannes is researching the female experience within Canadian policing and is conducting a national survey in the industry.
“Right now, for the latest statistics from 2021, about 22 per cent of sworn officers are women, and 18 percent are in leadership,” said Chavannes, the director of strategy, research and organizational performance at Durham Regional Police Service.
“The goal is to address the conditions women face in policing so we can improve in terms of recruiting and improve in terms of the experience women have in policing.”
Last month, six women filed a proposed class action lawsuit, alleging discrimination and harassment within B.C. municipal policing.
“B.C. municipal policing, the workplace is unsafe for women, full stop,” said one participant in the suit, whose identity is protected by a publication ban. She survived a sexual assault by a Vancouver Police officer who was convicted and jailed.
The Saanich Police Department wasn’t named in the lawsuit. Instead, Saanich Police have released stories, highlighting the change they’re trying to make.
“People think that in order to be a police officer, you have to act in a certain way. And that’s just not true. You can be emotional, you can be vulnerable, you can be feminine, and still be a really good police officer,” said Sgt. Jennifer Maher, family protection unit supervisor in Saanich Police’s YouTube video.
The police departmentt says its goal is to reflect their community, and that anything less would be undermining public safety.