Throughout policing history, the career has been male-dominated, with very few women in enforcement roles. As each year passes, more
and more women join the forces across Saskatchewan, in Canada, and in other countries, but there are still more male officers in most enforcement agencies. Saskatchewan’s enforcement agencies include municipal police forces, Saskatchewan Highway Patrol, Ministry of Environment conservation officers, RCMP, and deputy sheriffs. Within these agencies are women who commit to their roles, and protect and serve the public every day. As women continued to account for a growing percentage of officers in enforcement roles, it became apparent that more could be done to encourage and support women in the industry.
Sergeant Lisa Simonson of the Prince Albert Police Service (PAPS) saw that there was gap that needed to be filled to fully support women in enforcement roles. In December 2020, Simonson established Saskatchewan Women in Policing (SWIP), a non-profit corporation to support women in the province’s policing agencies. “I was looking for female support and mentorship within the Saskatchewan policing community and was frustrated to find that there was nothing formally in place for our province,” Simonson explained. “I knew there were similar organizations across Canada, such as BC Women in Law Enforcement (BCWLE), Alberta Women in Public Safety (AWIPS), Ontario Women in Law Enforcement, Atlantic Women in Law Enforcement, and the International Association of Women Police. I reached out to a past colleague, who is the Chair of AWIPS, and she offered to help me get our organization off the ground. Our sister organizations, BCWLE and AWIPS, have since been great mentors for us along the way.”
Simonson credits the mentorship of Alberta Women in Public Safety, as well as the BC Women in Law Enforcement, for their direction and support, and says she found no shortage of enthusiasm for her idea within Saskatchewan’s policing agencies. “With the support of (PAPS) Chief Bergen, I reached out to women in senior executive positions within the Saskatchewan policing community to determine if there was an appetite for such an organization in Saskatchewan. The response was overwhelming in support to develop an organization like this and that it was long overdue.”
With support from other enforcement agencies within Saskatchewan, SWIP created a board of directors to guide the organization.
- Sgt. Lisa Simonson, Prince Albert Police Service – President
- Insp. Tonya Gresty, Saskatoon Police Service – Vice President
- Cst. Melinda Mintenko, Weyburn Police Service – Secretary
- Sgt. Kimberley Stewart, Regina Police Service – Treasurer
- Det. Sgt. Colleen Reddekopp, Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment Conservation Officer Service – Awards Director
- Det. Sgt. Andrea Vogel, Saskatoon Police Service – Promotion/Marketing Director
- Cst. Danielle Stephany, Estevan Police Service – Special Events Director
- S. Sgt. Marlie Frei, Moose Jaw Police Service – Membership Director
- S. Sgt Laurel Marshall, Regina Police Service – Professional Development Director
- Officer Richelle Perkins, Canada Border Services Agency – Media Relations Director
- Kelsie Fraser, Saskatoon Police Service – Civilian Member Director
The board members have years of diverse experiences as law enforcement officers, and look forward to mentoring and leading fellow officers. SWIP was created to support women in their enforcement roles, and provides opportunities for officers to network with each other, no matter the colour of the uniform. SWIP provides female-centric training, conferences, and the opportunities for officers to grow and achieve their goals. As officers look to achieve their goals, SWIP will be there to support them, with a significant role for mentorship.
“When you see another woman in our profession who has attained success with their career development, career assignments, and leadership opportunities, and likely had to overcome adversity to achieve their goals – there is an opportunity to help guide and support women who want to
follow in their footsteps,” Simonson says. “SWIP is there to believe in, support, and cheer on women in our law enforcement community as they navigate their way through their careers.”
Do you want to become a member of SWIP? There are opportunities for both sworn members and civilian staff to become members, with three types of memberships: active, associate, and corporate. You can check out the website at swipsk.ca to sign up and become a part of a community with overflowing support. SWIP has been receiving positive feedback from police organizations and associations across the province. Saskatchewan conservation officers are eligible to become SWIP members and are supported by Saskatchewan Association of Conservation Officers. In the Ministry of Environment’s Compliance and Field Services Branch, there are 146 conservation officers throughout all ranks. Of those officers, 11 are women, nine of whom are field officers. Four new female recruits will join the team in January 2022. Saskatchewan has a seasonal program throughout the summer months for new conservation officers just starting their careers.
Of 49 seasonal officers, ten are female. In April 2018, Corporal Carrie McKay of the training unit became the first female conservation officer to move up to a ranking position.
2021 was a big year for female officers within the Ministry of Environment, with three women moving into leadership roles. In January 2021, Colleen Reddekopp became the first woman to wear the ranking of a detective sergeant. In September 2021, Bonnie Greene and Beth Kelly became the first female officers to become sergeants. These are big steps within the organization to support women in leadership roles. When these groundbreaking accomplishments occur, it opens the door for not just other young female officers, but for all young women and girls who aspire to leadership roles.
Female conservation officers see the world of a game warden a little differently, and they continue to be an integral part of Saskatchewan’s compliance and field services. Bonnie Greene, one of Saskatchewan’s newest sergeants, gave some insight about why she continues to make a difference for the province’s resources.
Name: Bonnie Greene
District: Candle Lake
Years of Service: 20 years
When did I know I wanted to be a CO?
I don’t think that really became a reality until I was in my early twenties. I was raised in a loving, but extremely low-income, family. I always had a passion for the outdoors and so the Integrated Resource Management Diploma program was perfect for me. I just had to work a few years until I could make that happen.
My favourite part of the job?
Definitely the diversity. Each day can be unique and you just never know what type of call you may get that day, from nuisance bears to over harvesting of fish or wildlife to assisting RCMP on a 911 call and everything in between. I enjoy snowmobiling and boating … chatting with anglers, exploring new hunting trails on ATV…Seriously, who wouldn’t enjoy that?!
My leadership position?
I am extremely humbled to be moving into my upcoming sergeant role. It’s hard to believe how fast time flies by and to say I am now a “senior officer” is still a little shocking. I am a people person and have always believed we cannot get this job done alone. I plan to continue to support my fellow officers through team-building strategies and encouraging everyone to meet their goals. What does that mean exactly?! Work hard, but remember to have fun at the same time!
My biggest motivation to continue to excel?
To maintain the balance that recognizes our unique history and cultures while providing opportunity for our families and youth for generations to come. Being open-minded to the fact that we all have a slightly different version of what nature means to us. For some, it is our livelihood, paying the bills and providing income for families. For others, it is recreational and provides connections with family and friends. I meet folks on a regular basis who tell me, “We have gotten together at this lake for 20 years,” or “My kids have all harvested their first deer here,” or “This was my great-grandfather’s trap line.” That really means a lot to me to hear those stories! So, I guess I hope to play a small part in nurturing that balance and ensuring sustainability of our natural resources.
Piece of advice for the young up-and-coming officers?
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Trust in your own skills that you have to offer and know that you won’t be perfect at everything and that’s just fine. Learn from your fellow officers and remember none of us are perfect either. We all go through difficult times. It can be extremely challenging to juggle your career and raise your family, and know that some days may not go according to plan! Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for help when you need it. I still do that on a regular basis. And I just can’t stress this enough; support your fellow officers in every way that you can! Be safe and have fun!
All of us women make a difference and allow more young women and girls to set out for these types of jobs that usually aren’t seen as a women’s career. A situation that sticks out for me was when I was on patrol and I saw a mother with a young daughter walking. The daughter looks at her mom and says, “Mom! It’s a girl cop!” Just those words prove that generations to come are watching the women of today accomplish whatever they set their mind to. I’m proud to be a part of the women in the Saskatchewan law enforcement community. We are a group of women who are determined and committed to serving the public. Yes, there are challenges that we face just on the basis that we are women, but we support each other and keep on looking for opportunities to excel. I am very grateful that there are more and more opportunities for connection, mentorship, and excelling throughout law enforcement. Every day is a step forward to making progress for a more equal and diverse law enforcement team. Let’s keep striving for what we want and lifting each other up