The Atlantic Women in Law Enforcement (AWLE) 24th annual training conference was held in Halifax, NS from October 25th – 28th, 2016 with approximately 150 delegates in attendance. The conference was a tremendous success and provided excellent opportunities in networking for the delegates in attendance. The theme of the conference was “Change – Challenge – Opportunity” and was co- hosted by Halifax District RCMP and Halifax Regional Police. The Co Chairs were Cst Susan Camus and Sgt Carolyn Nichols.
Janice Landry was the keynote speaker. Landry has been a writer and journalist for 29 years. She is an author, writer, strategist, event and video producer/director and public speaker. Landry began having her written work published in 2001. A former television reporter, producer and anchor with CTV-Atlantic, Landry is an established and experienced storyteller in varying mediums. She has assisted in co-ordinating, producing, writing and hosting a magnitude of live events, shows and fundraisers since 1987. She is also currently an in-demand public speaker. An emerging author, The Price We Pay is Landry’s third book, which follows “The Sixty Second Story.” Both works are published by Nova Scotia’s Pottersfield Press. The works examine the lives of first responders, mental health issues and extraordinary people affected by trauma.
Over the three day training conference, other speakers included Chief Jean – Michel Blais of Halifax Regional Police. Jean-Michel (J.M.) Blais was appointed to the position of Chief of Halifax Regional Police on October 10, 2012. Prior to this appointment, Chief Blais was a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for 25 years. Blais spoke about about leadership and how more women are needed in policing in the leadership role. Nancy Tower, Chief Corporate Development Officer, Emera Inc., Halifax, Nova Scotia spoke about women in leadership roles. As CCDO, Nancy Tower has a focus on mergers and acquisitions and the advancement of strategic growth projects in the areas of electric and gas transmission and generation. Dr Margos Watt was back again to present for the second year in a row. Dr. Watt is a registered Clinical Forensic Psychologist. She is a full time Professor at St. Francis Xavier University and a Professor at both Dalhousie and Acadia Universities. Dr. Watt conducts forensic risk assessments for the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC). Her research interests and publications in this area include assessment and prediction of risk (for violence and recidivism); personality characteristics of specific types of offenders (e.g., women offenders); and stress among correctional staff. Dr Watt spoke on the Black Widow an elderly lady who has been convicted numerous times of murdering men that she has married.
Angela Dufour spoke about trends on Nutrition. Since 1999 Angela has been working as a Professional Dietitian within the health and fitness and foodservice industries in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Angela is one of only 5 Canadians and 25 worldwide who recently graduated from the inaugural International Olympic Committee’s Graduate Sports Nutrition Diploma course in December 2007.. Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting. He worked as a strategic analyst in the Canadian intelligence community for over 30 years, including 15 at CSIS, with assignments at Public Safety Canada and the Ontario Provincial Police. He specializes in radicalization and homegrown Al Qaeda/Islamic State/Islamist-inspired extremism. Phil spoke about Radicalism and Terrorism. Jade Brooks spoke of her personal story of human trafficking. Jade Brooks is a 24 year old young woman, born in Toronto, Ontario and raised here in Halifax, Nova Scotia for the majority of her life. As a survivor of domestic human trafficking, Jade has spent the last three years on a journey of self-healing, exploring female empowerment, and transforming her lived experiences into social advocacy. Jade has worked tirelessly as a support worker in Toronto, offering peer counseling to young women involved in the sex trade. She has also educated more than 1500 service providers and countless youth about domestic human trafficking. She is currently pursuing the publication of her autobiographical novel titled, “Stages”, which explores themes of coming of age, life in foster care, addiction, domestic abuse, chronic illness, and poverty. Her novel is due to be released in early 2017″. The case study was presented by Trent Milton who was a member of the Halifax Integrated Major Crime Unit. He spoke on the Murder of Catie Miller in Nova Scoria. These presentations were interesting and informative. Delegates were presented with a great deal of information that will assist them in their professional careers and personal lives. The highlight of the week was the Awards Banquet. There were delegates and dignitaries from around the Atlantic provinces including representatives of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and municipal police departments. The following awards were presented:
Officer of the Year
Constable Tanya Lawlor has served with the Saint John Police Force (SJPF) for the past 25 years. She has a tremendous gift at being able to ooze so much compassion while maintaining her cool and not getting riled during a crisis situation. She goes above and beyond the ‘call of duty’ like so many officers do. She is just always on the ready when it comes to looking after someone’s needs and being able to calm the storm.
Cst. Lawlor is very strong physically and mentally. She picked up a second job at Castle’s Funeral Home recently on her days off because she simply loves helping others and is so filled with compassion. She may be one ‘tough cookie, but she loves deeply and she cares about people.
Over the past 25 years, Cst. Lawlor has distinguished herself from others by showing superior leadership while performing her duties as a patrol constable, acting sergeant, coach officer, forensic (Ident) member, crisis negotiator and constant ‘go to’ person for her peers as part of the Employee and Family Assistance Program. She not only demonstrates a strong work ethic, but provides members with guidance, direction and support and encourages them in their efforts to succeed.
Cst. Lawlor is a volunteer and organizer of various committees. She strongly believes that being involved with your community is very important, not only as a member of the community, but as a police officer. Over the years, she has organized or been involved with planning and organizing the SJPF Children’s Christmas party, the SJPF golf tournament to raise awareness of mental health (PTSD) and several roles with the Cure for MS society. As stated previously, Cst. Lawlor is the ‘go to’ person for her peers as part of the Employee and Family Assistance Program. She has tremendous compassion and exercised the utmost confidentiality, a gift that only special individuals possess. Cst. Lawlor has been on many committees over the years within the Saint John West neighbourhoods, the Saint John school system and in relation to various community events.
Distinguishing herself not only from her peers but breaking new ground as a female is nothing new for her. Cst. Lawlor was the first ever female referee for hockey in New Brunswick, back in the late 80’s. During her 25 years policing she has been faced with many challenges and barriers as a female in a male-dominated field; however, she is one who has made changes for the new generation of woman in policing by showing courage, honesty, understanding and equality amongst the community and within the work environment. She has mentored other junior officers and served as a coach officer to many new members over the years. Cst. Lawlor is also a big advocate for mental health. When a member of the Saint John Police Force took his own life in April of 2015, she was there for not only her colleagues, but the family members of the officer. Cst. Lawlor played a huge role in starting a wellness program for the Saint John Police Force and their first responders. She consistently checks in on family members and colleagues to ensure their mental health wellness. Many colleagues know that if you ever require anything, at work during a shift or once you are off shift, you can call her and she will be there. She is hardworking, caring and an example of a police officer that goes above and beyond the call of duty.
Cst. Lawlor has demonstrated a natural ability to deal with whatever comes her way. She has demonstrated good judgement and reactions during serious incidents. This past April, Cst. Lawlor was presented with a commendation award by SJPF’s Chief of Police. The Commissioners Board met and voted unanimously that she receive the award in recognition of her efforts in relation to an incident that occurred on New Year’s Eve 2015 where a young man lost his life. Cst. Lawlor was called to the incident at the end of her shift and did everything she could to help the young man. Despite giving it her all, the man succumbed to his injuries. Cst. Lawlor takes initiative in any situation and her intuitive communications skills seem to follow her wherever she goes. Last August, she and her husband were in Toronto to celebrate their 23rd wedding anniversary by taking in a Toronto Blue Jays baseball game. They were not far from the Rogers Center, when they observed a man in distress threatening to jump from the top of the high trusses of a railway monument near the stadium. Cst. Lawlor quickly went into action, and with her 10 years of crisis negotiator experience, began making conversation with the man. She continued to speak with the man and attempted to talk him down from the ledge. Shortly after police and fire crews showed up, the man climbed down safely. These are just two examples of many, showing Cst. Lawlor’s sound judgement under pressure.
Constable Julie Cunningham joined the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) in 2005 and has distinguished herself as a leader and performed in an exceptional manner in every aspect of her work.
In 2007, Cst. Cunningham became a field trainer for incoming graduates of the police initiation and training of new recruits. In her role as field trainer, she was responsible for assisting these new officers in developing their skills up to the point that they could work independently. She remained a field trainer for three consecutive years, monitoring and mentoring recruit constables.
In 2010, the Officer-in-charge of Patrol tasked Cst. Cunningham with delivering the training to new coach officers, as she was quite familiar with the program. Cst. Cunningham eagerly accepted this responsibility and took it upon herself to conduct an in-depth look at the training being provided. She felt it to be quite outdated and in need of revision to ensure that the development of the recruits was paramount and that a formalized competency evaluation was in place. In consultation with the Officer-in-charge of Patrol, she was given the liberty to review what was in existence and develop a coach officer program that effectively monitors the work performance of the recruit constables and their competencies of delivering quality police service. The program is still being used by RNC.
While she was working on the coach officer program, Cst. Cunningham also saw an opportunity to develop a guidebook for patrol officers. She recognized that there wasn’t any reference material for front line officers. Since policing is quite complex and requires an officer to be knowledgeable in a variety of areas, she felt that there should be some reference material containing report formats for calls and specific legislation associated to the type of call. She researched the matter and drafted a proposal on what she thought was needed and presented the proposal to the Executive of the RNC. The Executive agreed and Cst. Cunningham led the effort to bring the guide to fruition. With the support of the Officer-in-charge of Patrol, she identified and established a core committee and led this very diverse team to complete a comprehensive document. Under her leadership, and through hard work and determination, the Police Officers Guide for Patrol Officers became a reality. This guide is a consolidated reference to federal, provincial and municipal legislation as well as key reference points to RNC policy as it relates to different calls for service. Cst. Cunningham’s significant contribution to the RNC Coach Officer Program and the development of the Patrol Officers Guide distinguishes her as a true leader with exceptional problem solving, planning and organizational skills.
Cst. Cunningham is also a positive role model which certainly aligns with her leadership abilities. In 2014, when a member’s infant son was diagnosed with a life threatening illness and required a bone marrow transplant at the Toronto Sick Children’s Hospital, she became heavily involved in a large fundraiser to help offset the cost of the family’s travel and residency in Ontario. She tirelessly worked soliciting donations for a silent auction, selling tickets and helping to organize the overall event, all while on maternity leave herself. The event was a huge success that raised a significant amount of money for the family.
Since returning from leave in January 2015, Cst. Cunningham has been assigned to Patrol Division. She is currently in the promotional pool for the rank of sergeant and is eagerly awaiting the opportunity to supervise, coach and mentor junior officers.
Leaders are often considered to be people who know how to achieve goals and inspire people along the way. Cst. Cunningham definitely fits that definition.
Excellence in Performance
Constable Monia Thibault has been a Halifax Regional Police officer since 2008. She has been assigned to the Patrol Division for the duration of her career and presently works in a uniformed capacity doing general patrol duties in East Division.
On May 23, 2015, Halifax Regional Police responded to several robberies of fast food businesses in which the suspect fled in a taxi. At around 1:20 am Cst. Thibault was patrolling in the south end of Halifax near Atlantic Street looking for the robbery suspect when she came across a taxi parked and idling in the area of Atlantic Street and Brussels Street. Cst. Thibault noticed that the back window of the taxi was fogged up and felt this was suspicious. She exited her vehicle and approached the taxi on the driver’s side. When she got close to the vehicle she observed a woman lying down in the back seat and the male driver turned facing the back of the cab. Cst. Thibault observed the driver fumbling with something and it appeared he was trying to hide it between himself and the centre console of the vehicle. Cst. Thibault’s policing experience and instincts told her this activity was suspicious and warranted further investigation.
She approached the driver, who was still in the taxi and asked for identification. She then checked the back seat and observed that the woman, who was partially clothed, was not moving and appeared to be passed out. Cst. Thibault told the driver to turn off the vehicle and get out. The male didn’t comply right away and continued to fidget with something at his feet, again appearing to hide something. Cst. Thibault then opened the door and pulled the man out of the vehicle. Upon the man exiting the vehicle, Cst. Thibault saw property belonging to the woman under the front seats of the taxi. When the taxi driver exited the vehicle, Cst. Thibault observed that he was in a state of undress. She immediately placed him under arrest for sexual assault and called for assistance.
Additional officers quickly arrived on the scene and Cst. Thibault turned the taxi driver over to another police officer. She then began to tend to the woman. She was very kind, compassionate and reassuring with her and ensured she had the help and support she needed. Cst. Thibault also initiated contact with the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division to facilitate transfer of the file to the Sexual Assault Investigation Team.
The taxi driver was charged with sexual assault and no longer works for any taxi company in Halifax. Cst. Thibault’s superior attention to duty and outstanding investigative efforts led to the identification and arrest of a dangerous individual. There have been several incidents of sexual assaults involving taxi drivers and female passengers in Halifax over the past five years; however, the prosecution rate is low, in part due to insufficient evidence as well as the victims choosing to not proceed with charges or continue through the court process. Due to Cst. Thibault’s diligence and thoroughness, this taxi driver has been charged and is awaiting trial, and the female survivor has been given the opportunity to seek justice for this crime.
Constable Stephanie Glendenning is a Community Response Officer (CRO) in the Greystone community housing area of Spryfield. She has worked there for the last two and a half years alongside former partner Cst. Todd Stephenson and current partner Cst. Jim Vaters. Cst. Glendenning has become an integral part of that community and has embraced it as her own.
Cst. Glendenning goes well beyond policing criminal behavior in the area. In her role as CRO, she has become a key member of several neighbourhood improvement committees and helped to revitalize and recruit new members for a board operating in Greystone. The board is up and running again and recently assisted with a large community event.
Cst. Glendenning organized Greystone youth days together with the board, and the local school.
She worked with municipal recreation staff members, the fire department, the tenant’s association and the school to ensure this event ran in 2016. She arranged for HRP officers and cadets from Atlantic Police Academy, the local radio station, the local member of the legislature and the councillor for the area to attend the event, and most importantly, had free ice cream treats for the participants!
She assisted tenants with applications for programs such as the Halifax Transit bus pass program for low income residents of the municipality. This involved filling out a lengthy application form and collecting previous years’ tax returns. She also identified a key issue that was contributing to a low number of applications for the program – many low income residents don’t file taxes.
Cst. Glendenning works collaboratively with the housing authority to remove tenants who create problems for the community including suspected drug dealers in the area who target the youth in the community. She works with the Drug Section of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division and patrol members, to investigate drug activity and liaises with housing to have these people reviewed for living in the complex once charges are laid.
This summer, Cst. Glendenning started a summer reading program for children. On Wednesday afternoons throughout the summer, she and her partner would go to the local playground where they would sit down with the children and they would all read a book. Of course, she arranged treats for the kids as well.
Cst. Glendenning takes calls at all hours of the night about problems in the area. Her Divisional Commander has repeatedly told her that she does not have to take calls after hours but she wants to be accessible to her community and these calls often become a source of information for the patrol members who are working during that shift. She takes complaints from people who would not call patrol to the scene and then forwards that information to the appropriate unit.
She works with other partner agencies, such as Children’s Family Services, to ensure that youth in the area are well looked after and not in high risk homes. Cst. Glendenning has a big heart and when she sees youth in at risk homes she will call the appropriate resources to get these youth either help in the home or removal from the home if necessary. She will then support the parents in taking steps to get their children back by encouraging them to fix the issues.
Cst. Glendenning collects bottles from her neighbours in Bedford and attends the bottle return depot with a car load of empties. This money is all turned over to the Greystone community to assist with programs in the area.
The following comment was noted on a Greystone resident’s Facebook page:
“ If it wasn’t for Steph, I don’t think the playground or the new GTA committee would be there! Which I know isn’t her job! But hey, she’s done a lot for the community since she got there. Plus a little birdie told me that she has been helping to organizing a community yard sale and has also helped keep the community food bank stay open. Remember this isn’t her job as a police officer, her role is to uphold the law and to keep the peace but she has gone above and beyond to help as many as she can in this community!! In her few years in Greystone she has helped volunteer her off time with community events and has taken a lot of her time to help as many as she possibly can” Because of all of the above and likely more, members come to Cst. Glendenning to see what is going on in the Greystone community or who is living where in the complex. She usually knows the answer right away, but if not, she can reach out to the community to get the information in short order. She is a valuable contributor to COMSTAT meetings every three weeks and shares information with Parole and Probation involving our joint clientele. It is said that listening to Cst. Glendenning is like listening to your Grandmother, “this one is married to that one, who is cousins with that one who used to live here…”
One of the most impressive things about Cst. Glendenning’s involvement with this community is the fact that she does so much for them and at the same time balances her home life. She is the single mother of two boys, 9 and 11 years old. She includes her boys in the community events at Greystone, which allows her to attend, but also provides them with the opportunity to interact with youth who may have it harder than they do and to learn the value of helping others. This shows that Cst. Glendenning is fully integrated with the community. Most officers keep their own families separate from their work not wanting to expose their kids to “that side of the world”.
Many will say that all of this is Cst. Glendenning’s job as a community officer. In part they are correct, but her involvement is well beyond what most community officers do. She truly feels she is a part of the Greystone community and totally gives herself to this job, well beyond the expectations of Halifax Regional Police. Cst. Glendenning’s contributions, along with a regular police presence in Spryfield, have made the Greystone area a community that is well on its way to becoming self-sufficient.
Constable Louanne McQuaid is a serving member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in “L” Division in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Cst. McQuaid brings a wealth of knowledge to her present position having served eleven years in two RCMP divisions – Alberta and Prince Edward Island. As a general duty member with a flair for police/community relations and working with schools, seniors and youth groups, Cst. McQuaid has established herself as a leader in the area of mentoring and fostering positive relationships, especially with troubled youth.
Between February, 2006 and October, 2009 at Wainwright, Alberta, Cst. McQuaid spent countless hours in local schools organizing school talks, working with youth, lecturing on the effects of drugs and alcohol and being a positive role model. This also included many evenings on her own time working with youth as a part of the scouting and guiding movement; working with local service groups at organizing bicycle rodeos on weekends; volunteering time to speak with seniors on issues of importance, and working within the DARE Program, both internally in schools and externally in the community. In Wainwright, she organized an annual ball-hockey tournament with the proceeds being returned to local schools in support of DARE. Affectionately known as “Constable Lou,” she won the praise of the community for her selfless determination at making a difference and bridging the gap between youth and members of Wainwright Detachment.
In the Community of Irma, Alberta, “Constable Lou” was given the title of Honorary Citizen by the Mayor at a community ceremony prior to her transfer to Prince Edward Island. As a young constable, she had chosen to reside in an adult living facility in this isolated community 25 kilometers from Wainwright. In doing so, she became the first ever RCMP member to live in Irma, and hence immediately ascended as de facto “village sheriff.” Cst. McQuaid would go out of her way to ensure fairness in everything she did – be it traffic stops, speaking to people, serving on committees, appearing at community events, or participating in Red Serge. In her annual assessment in April, 2010, Sergeant Jim Moran said “… even the high profile criminals had respect for her in the village.” In one particular case, a high profile criminal, who once served time for murder, showed up at the counter with a case of beer to show his appreciation for being treated fairly and Sgt. Moran noted “he is showing new respect for members in the community and in the district’.”
Cst. McQuaid’s work continues to have an impact on Prince Edward Island. At Souris Detachment, she moved quickly to establish herself as the School Liaison Officer in the Souris area of schools. Cst. McQuaid’s work was vital in organizing ball-hockey tournaments in the summer, and a charity Kings District hockey tournament in the winter where members of the RCMP played against well-known individuals in the community and local business people. The tournament has developed into an annual affair with money raised in support of providing hockey uniforms and equipment to those less fortunate.
One evening in March 2011, Cst. McQuaid and two other RCMP colleagues came into contact with a very troubled young female following a complaint of a domestic disturbance. As part of their joint attendance at the scene, Cst. McQuaid and other members took the time to speak with the girl about the various forces that prompted the call to police for assistance. The girl related that her grades were slipping, her school attendance was poor, and how countless other factors affecting her personal health and well-being were taking their toll on her emotionally, including drug and alcohol use, poor parenting, persistent arguments with her mother, etc. Cst. McQuaid took it upon herself to meet with the girl and discuss her situation at home. She would spend many nights volunteering her personal time as a tutor to ensure her homework was completed and submitted on time. As time passed, the many weeks of assistance started to take effect and the girl was suddenly showing an interest for learning and her attendance at school had improved significantly. She has since graduated high school, and recently Cst. McQuaid and another member of the RCMP attended her graduation from the New Brunswick Community College at Miramichi where she received a Certificate in Police Foundations. Today as a young adult, she is employed with the Provincial Sheriff’s Office for the Province of Prince Edward Island. Cst. McQuaid’s intervention and subsequent involvement as a positive role model is a shining example of her compassion towards others.
Cst. McQuaid’s work internally in the district with her colleagues at identifying mental health, raising awareness and helping others in need is also a testament to her character. She reaches out to others behind the scenes as a voice of reason when she learns of someone in need, or perhaps for just a reassuring voice. This quality is seen by others in positive comments from school officials about her interaction with students. “Constable Lou is a consummate team player who gets along well, with everyone. She is passionate about the job and about doing what she can to assist those in need. She is the student’s champion.” Another spoke of Cst. McQuaid “as being very approachable to students, but one who tells it like it is, and that has earned her tremendous respect with teaching staff.”
Cst. McQuaid is presently on the Executive for the Atlantic Women in Law Enforcement. She continues to serve with distinction, both as a positive role model and as an advocate for women in our profession. Earlier this month, she was promoted to a position in the General Investigation Section. Part of that selection was based on her qualities as a role model and as a leader.
Medal of Valor
On November 9, 2015, two patrol officers with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, Constable Stephanie Pelley and Constable Charley Torres entered the frigid ocean waters of the North Atlantic in full police gear to rescue a woman in distress.
At approximately 1:25 p.m., the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) received a call of a suicidal female in the town of Flatrock, Newfoundland. Family members had called 911 after discovering the woman’s cell phone on a walking trail that led to the Atlantic Ocean. The woman had been reported missing from the Psychiatric Unit of the Health Sciences Complex and she had texted her loved ones a message indicating that she was going to commit suicide. Cst. Stephanie Pelley, a two-year member of the RNC, was one of the first responding officers on the scene. Upon arrival, the police officers located the woman on a steep rock embankment near the ocean’s edge. As they began to approach her, she moved down the rocks and closer to the ocean. The officers’ attempt to negotiate with the woman failed, and she jumped off the rocks and into the ocean. The strong current and the waves quickly swept her away from the rocky coastline. She began thrashing around and screamed for help while being dragged further from the shore. Without hesitation, Cst. Pelley jumped into the water and began swimming towards her, while her partner retrieved flotation devices from their patrol vehicle. Once in the water Cst. Pelley, struggled to maintain buoyancy due to the weight of her duty belt and the waves crashing over her head. She quickly realized she would not be able to swim much further given the situation she found herself in, so she returned to shore, removed her duty belt and reentered the water. By this time, Cst. Pelley was joined by another officer, Cst. Charlie Torres, a five-year member of the RNC, who had overheard the call on his radio. While other officers on scene retrieved flotation devices and ropes, Csts. Pelley and Torres courageously swam towards the woman amidst the high waves and strong current. When they reached the woman, she was uncooperative and was fighting to break free. They managed to get her to shore but found it difficult to hold onto her, due to their own numbness from the frigid ocean water. They used their bodies to pin her against the rocks until help arrived. With every crashing wave, all three were forced underwater together, but Constables Pelley and Torres managed to maintain control of the woman and stay on the slippery rocks until a third officer arrived. The woman was then pulled to safety despite her repeated attempts to break free. She was immediately taken to hospital for treatment of her injuries while the officers were treated at the scene.
This successful rescue is due to the quick and courageous actions of Csts. Pelley and Torres. They risked their own lives to rescue this woman who would have undoubtedly perished in the ocean waters that day. The waters of Newfoundland and Labrador in November are tumultuous and bitterly cold; this woman would have likely faced a different outcome had it not been for fearless response of these two officers. Their actions truly exemplified what it means to go above and beyond the call of duty.
Though this was an undeniable act of bravery for the two officers, they remained humble amidst recognition for their rescue. During an interview with a local newspaper the day after the incident, they stated that they acted out of necessity and were concerned only with helping this woman in distress. This act of bravery, risking their personal safety in the face of great danger, demonstrated just that! As we all know, a police officer takes an oath for the preservation of life and a final quote attributed to Cst. Pelley in the newspaper article, sums up nicely how she felt about her actions that day, “Last night was probably the first time in my career when I went home and said ‘That’s what I signed up for.’”
On November 4, 2014, a woman was reported missing by her sister to the Cape Breton Regional Police Service (CBRPS). The woman was from Eskasoni, but was believed to have been in Sydney when she went missing. This case could easily have been side-tracked with complicated jurisdictional issues as Sydney and the surrounding areas are policed by CBRPS, while the nearby Eskasoni First Nation is policed by the RCMP. Either agency could have claimed the other was responsible for the case, or conversely, claimed exclusive jurisdiction. However, officers from CBRPS contacted the RCMP Eskasoni Detachment to advise them of the missing person case and it was agreed from the outset that it would be a joint investigation. CBRPS would follow up on all leads in the Cape Breton area and the RCMP would pursue investigative avenues outside of Cape Breton. Investigative teams were assembled from both agencies and agreed to meet on a regular basis to share information and to formulate and coordinate investigative activities.
Cst. Angela McKay was the primary investigator for the RCMP on this case, with support from other RCMP Major Crime investigators, including Cpl. Shari Pictou, Cst. Trevor Gallen, Cst. Robert Daley, Cpl. Calvin Byard and Cst. Gerard Rose-Berthiaume. Cpl. Pictou was a Truro Police Service investigator assigned to the RCMP Major Crime Unit and Sgt. Paul Vickers was the Major Crime Commander, who was also heavily engaged in this file. Sgt. Sheldon O’Donnell was the lead investigator for CBRPS, with support from Cst. Duncan Currie, Cst. Dwight Miller and Cst. Kalolin Francis.
Investigators from both teams followed the usual investigative protocol for a missing person case, including checking local transition houses, hospitals and speaking to friends and associates, etc. They also checked and added the missing female to the normal police systems, such as CPIC, PROS, and Versadex. Missing person bulletins were created and distributed across the Atlantic Region and were shared with the Halifax Regional Police /RCMP Integrated Vice Unit and the Toronto Police Service Vice Unit.
A significant amount of investigative effort was put into locating and interviewing potential witnesses who claimed to have sighted the missing female, as well as reviewing many hours of video from locations where she tended to frequent. None of these efforts were fruitful other than to confirm she was likely not currently frequenting the Sydney area. Investigators determined that the woman had a prepaid phone registered to her which was tracked as roaming in the United States. US Homeland Security confirmed that the woman crossed the border on foot at Houlton, Maine. Through contact with police services in the United States, investigators tracked the woman’s movements from September 5-19 through a number of states from New Jersey to Tennessee.
At this point in the investigation, investigators became extremely concerned for the woman’s safety as the last confirmed contact with her was nearly two months earlier. There was no evidence that she had returned to Canada and there had been no credit card, health care or cell phone activity since then. She had no money, was transient, and had no strong social or family ties. She had been known to engage in a high-risk lifestyle, her mode of transportation was hitchhiking and she had been frequenting truck stops. Investigators had tried a number of innovative approaches, including using the National Trucking Association to disseminate a missing person bulletin to all truckers. They also took advantage of the power of social media, but all investigative leads were quickly drying up. The investigators could have easily concluded the investigation as “all investigative avenues exhausted,” however, the team was not ready to give up. Although they had received excellent support from their American colleagues in speaking to key individuals in Knoxville, the team decided they would personally travel there to speak to witnesses to see if they could develop further leads. On November 30, 2014, four members of the team, Sgt. Vickers, Cst. McKay, Cst. Francis and Cst. Currie travelled to Knoxville and worked with the Knox County Sheriff’s Department, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. They also followed up with social agencies in the area and held a press conference. Law enforcement officers in the United States were surprised and impressed with the degree of effort this team had made to locate the woman. Unfortunately, they exhausted all investigative leads and were unable to determine her whereabouts before they left Knoxville. However, they had raised the woman’s profile to the point that she was on the minds of law enforcement officers, local shelters, the media and the citizens of the area where she was last seen. Thankfully, three weeks later, she walked into the local area Rescue Mission looking for shelter. Because of the recent exposure of her case, workers at the shelter immediately recognized her and contacted police. Travel arrangements were made with her family and the Band Council to return her home. She re-joined her family in Eskasoni a few days later.
It is important to note that this case began and concluded prior to the Federal Government’s announcement of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murder Indigenous Women and Girls. There is no doubt the national inquiry will hear a number of stories on how law enforcement agencies failed the victims in some cases. This case will not be one of them.
Cst. McKay, Sgt. O’Donnell and the other members of their investigative teams distinguished themselves by their unwavering commitment in solving this missing person case. They set the bar high and as a result this case has become a standard of expectation for missing person cases in Nova Scotia.
Atlantic Women Law Enforcement Team Endeavours Award winners – Cst. Angela MacKay, Sgt. Sheldon O’Donnell, Cpl. Shari Pictou, Sgt. Paul Vickers, Cst. Robert Daley, Cst. Trevor Gallen, Cst. Gerald Rose-Bethiaume, Cpl. Calvin Byard, Cst. Duncan Currie, Cst. Dwight Miller, and Cst. Kalolin Francis
Congratulations to all of the award recipients, who are selected by an independent committee based on nominations submitted.
In addition to the professional training and awards presentations, delegates of the conference participated in unique networking opportunities. As well, at each conference a donation is made to the charity of choice of a conference committee; the recipient this year was Dress for Success. The mission of Dress for Success is to Empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life. The delegates had the opportunity to bring in their gently used professional clothing for Dress for Success. It was a huge success as was the conference.
Cst Louanne McQuaid,
Atlantic Women in Law Enforcement, Media Relations