2017 AWLE conference (Sydney, NS)

The Silver Anniversary of the Atlantic Women in Law Enforcement (AWLE) conference was a memorable event. The 25th annual conference was held this year in beautiful Cape Breton, Nova Scotia from November 7 -10 . Conference organizers Danielle Campbell and Melissa MacDonald (both of Cape Breton Regional Police) and their organizing committee went above and beyond, in true Cape Breton style, to bring forward a fun, informative and enlightening conference to 150 delegates in attendance. 

“Believe in the Possibilities,” was the theme that owed through from the keynote address to invited speakers and selected topic areas. 

Two-time Olympic gold medalist, Heather Moyse, who is no stranger to ‘believing in possibilities,’ kicked off the conference as the keynote speaker. Moyse is a native of Prince Edward Island who took her love for multiple sports (bobsleigh, rugby, and track cycling) to the World Cup level and the Olympics. As an inspirational speaker, ambassador, and humanitarian, she enjoys sharing her passion of physical fitness and sport, and hopes to inspire others to chase their dreams. Moyse engages audiences with her personal experiences and professional training as an occupational therapist to encourage and inspire others to embrace challenges and face diversity head-on. She shares her message that when you believe in the possibilities of achieving your dreams, and stepping outside your comfort zones, you can discover and maximize your potential in sport, business or life. She was a great inspiration to kick-off the conference, and graciously joined in on pictures with delegates. Heather is a true people-person and her pleasant and welcoming nature certainly hasn’t changed who she is after becoming a celebrity Olympian. 

Over the three day training conference, eight speakers offered their insights on an array of current topics. 

  • Kari Dart a Superintendent with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), and Director of Provincial Communications and Applications Support, spoke about leadership. Dart spoke to this topic with great experience, as she is responsible for leading over 900 professionals who deliver a range of mission critical services to the OPP. Kari and her team deliver a range of support through the OPP, in delivering its mandate of providing efficient and effective frontline policing to the province of Ontario. 
  • Dr. Matthew Bowes, Chief Medical Examiner for the Province of Nova Scotia spoke of his experiences and provided insight regarding evidence for delegates to think about when on scenes. 
  • Sergeant Mike Murphy of the Cape Breton Regional Police spoke about Computer Technology and Forensics. Murphy provided detailed information on how specialized software and hardware is used in the forensic retrieval of data from computers, mobile devices, cellular phones and other electronic storage mediums. 
  • Doctor Amy Ornstein is the Medical director of IWK Suspected Trauma and Response Team (START), IWK Division Head of General Pediatrics, and is an Associate Professor at Dalhousie University. Ornstein is continuously learning about child abuse and neglect and shared some of her experiences on pediatrics and child maltreatment. She spreads her knowledge to a wide range of audiences including medical professionals, law enforcement and social workers. 
  • Leanne Fitch, Chief of the Fredericton Police Force, also an AWLE member, spoke on Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). Fitch has been instrumental in the development of Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) National Framework of Intimate Partner Violence. 
  • Vishal Dhir of Axon spoke on how the company continues to establish leading technology for Law Enforcement and Public Safety. He also spoke on cloud-based solutions for Law Enforcement agencies to help them streamline their processes and operate more efficiently. 
  • Jennifer Spears, President & Creative Strategist with Clean Slate Strategies spoke about how organizations can do things differently and work unscripted. Spear works with teams and organizations to help solve problems, plan strategically and make innovation and creativity a reality in their workplace. 
  • The conference case study was presented by Sgt. Bill Turner of the Cape Breton Regional Police. He presented on the investigations of the murders of Brett McKinnon and Laura Jessome. 

The awards banquet proved to be a conference highlight, it was both celebratory and magical – another testament to the creative team behind the conference. Over 200 people enjoyed the evening, included founding members, delegates, and guests. With representation from Canada Border Service Agency, Sheriffs, Provincial and Municipal Police Forces, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Corrections, the following awards were presented: 

Community Service Award 

Constable Tanya Schwartz has served with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary since 2007. She is currently assigned to Community Services where she is responsible for the delivery of various community programs as well as establishing partnerships that foster safe and healthy communities in the Northeast Avalon area. Tanya has been instrumental in spearheading programs such as Neighborhood Watch and the Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program, and has facilitated over 150 presentations at schools and to community groups on topics such as internet safety, armed robbery prevention and personal safety.

Tanya serves and represents the RNC on numerous committees and has successfully collaborated with the St. John’s Citizens Crime Prevention Committee, often taking a leading role for the group’s initiatives. She regularly visits areas of concern in the community to gain intimate knowledge of the issues that are presented before suggesting solutions that will help make the area safer. 

Within the RNC, Tanya volunteers on the Health and Wellness Committee as treasurer as well as taking on many other duties to support the work of the committee. Tanya is an intelligent, hardworking and dedicated ofcer who demonstrates her commitment to the health and safety of her community in all aspects of her work.

Excellence in Performance 

As an investigator with the Halifax Regional Police/RCMP Integrated Criminal Investigation Division, Detective Constable Kerry Nielsen never forgets that each homicide victim was a real person whose life was tragically cut short, leaving behind family and friends who are grieving their loss. During her tenure with the Homicide and Cold Case Units, she played an instrumental role in charges being laid in three unsolved homicides. In 2013, D/Cst. Nielsen was assigned to unsolved homicide of Chad Smith. She spent countless hours, both on and off the clock, on this challenging investigation which involved using complex investigative techniques to try to get two suspects to admit to what they had done. Ultimately, both suspects were charged with First Degree Murder; one was convicted and the other is awaiting trial. As the lead investigator in the Naomi Kidston case, her diligence and commitment led to the Cold Case Unit laying it’s rst ever charges in an unsolved homicide. Her determination and attention to detail were critical to solving the homicide of Kaylin Diggs and resulted in the accused pleading guilty to manslaughter. D/Cst Kerry Nielsen is an amazing investigator who goes above and beyond to get justice for victims, which she hopes will provide some measure of comfort for their grieving loved ones.


Sergeant Joanne McNeil has served with Halifax Regional Police since 2001, and recently she became the Sergeant in charge of the Community Relations and Crime Prevention Unit (CRCP). Joanne demonstrates full engagement in her duties and responsibilities to her team. She has built a solid reputation as a competent and caring supervisor who works side-by-side with the members of her team to ensure the best possible outcome in any situation. Her professionalism is paralleled by her passion for policing.

As a mentor, she understands that establishing strong and healthy relationships will always build pride, loyalty and professionalism inside and outside the organization. She treats all team members with respect and fairness each and every time. Just as she responsibly points out avenues for improvement to her team, she makes a point to recognize and appreciate the good work they do. 

She received accolades from her colleagues across HRP for her compassionate and common-sense approach to supporting employee mental wellness. She recently self-nominated to become an instructor of the Road to Mental Readiness training (R2MR), which takes incredible tact, directness and genuine humanity. 

Joanne is a one example that leadership is not simply positional; it is based in competence, the motivation of others, engagement, trust, heart and inspiring these same attributes in others. She is a shining example of hope to other women officers seeking a leadership role in law enforcement

Medal of Valour 

Sergeant Nancy Rudback has served the citizens of Halifax for over 28 years, first with the Halifax Police Department and then with Halifax Regional Police. Proving that those who have sworn to serve and protect are never off duty, Nancy was instrumental in saving a fellow traveller’s life at the Toronto Pearson International Airport in February 2017. 

A woman who had fallen and hit her head on the concrete floor required medical assistance. Nancy noted signs of cardiac arrest and went directly to the woman, who had collapsed, and began CPR. Once American immigrant officers arrived with an AED, Sgt. Rudback and the officers worked together to revive the woman before handing over care to arriving firefighters and paramedics. 

As the modest individual, she didn’t share this story with anyone upon her return home. If not for her travelling companion, no one would have known that the incident had even occurred. To those who know Nancy, it came as no surprise that she would spring into action and save a person’s life – this is just one shining example that highlights Nancy’s sense of responsibility and her caring and humble nature.


Over the course of her 17-years with the RCMP, Sergeant Dustine Rodier has served the public in a variety of roles. The consistency that runs throughout her career is her commitment to mentoring and developing others. Early in her career, Dustine was tasked as one of four members to initiate the Marihuana Enforcement Team pilot project targeting grow operations. During this time, she mentored the general duty members in gathering grounds for the identification of potential grow operations.

As an investigator with the Richmond Detachment, assigned first to the Burglary Unit and then the Serious Crime Unit, she mentored and further developed general duty members, ensuring they were assigned tasks to build their overall skills and confidence as major crime investigators. 

In 2008, she was promoted to Corporal, and as the Senior Corporal in the Serious Crime Unit, she acted as the Sergeant in charge of four teams. As the Richmond ViCLAS, Lower Mainland Sex Crimes Bulletin and National Sex Offender Registry Coordinator, she provided direction on investigations and interviews to other investigators and general duty members and was able to guide members in a comfortable, positive learning environment. She frequently trained and provided guidance on major case management principals to new members. 

As a child interviewing instructor, she also facilitated on multiple courses throughout E Division including municipal departments and social services. Moving to New Brunswick in 2013, Dustine was assigned to the Federal Operations Unit Saint John as a Team Leader where she lead the investigation into two criminal organizations involved in international drug trafficking. She was also the Human Trafficking (HT) Coordinator and a member of the New Brunswick Working Group on Human Trafficking. 

Her current role as Detachment Commander in Hampton, New Brunswick, Dustine mentors and creates developmental opportunities for all detachment employees. Through her career, Dustine has been a mentor to women in policing, and next year, she will be one of the AWLE Conference co-chairs in Moncton, NB.

Officer of the Year 

Constable Kelley McIntyre is in her 9th year as a patrol officer with the Kennebecasis Regional Police Force (KRPF) in New Brunswick. She previously served 4 years with the Amherst Police Force in Nova Scotia. Kelley is a coach officer and has mentored several young officers in whom she strives to instill her love of the job. These officers have left her tutelage feeling condent and excited about the career that lays ahead for them. Kelly is a tenacious and meticulous investigator and has led many serious investigations. She takes pride in making sure the les are complete and that the victims are supported in every way possible. In her role as the Domestic Violence Prevention Coordinator for the police force, she demonstrates a steadfast commitment to the care and welfare of victims of domestic violence and their families.

Kelley has developed a rapport with the lower income section of the community and is a trusted advocate for this group in many ways. She spends hours and hours of her own time planning community events and mentoring young people in the community, and she often brings her children along to community events to teach them the importance of helping others by giving back to the community. 

She has been a key player in making a positive change in the workplace, even in the face of adversity. Kelley is a wellrounded officer who continues to prove her excellence in performance year after year without fail. She epitomizes the best of what it means to wear a police uniform.

Team Endeavours 

Constables Sherry Legge and Lisa Fitzgerald have served with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary for 12 years, assigned to the Forensic Identication Section since 2011. They investigate everything from property damage to homicides.

From July to September 2016, Sherry and Lisa responded to a homicide of an unprecedented magnitude in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Through the forensic work, fourteen different scenes were processed, and it became a long term project that was extremely complex.

Lisa was the primary forensic officer on the file, and Sherry was the exhibit control person. They worked tirelessly and continuously, processing and cataloguing nearly one thousand exhibits, conducting dozens of footwear impression comparisons, performing numerous laboratory requests and completing the forensic work that led to the arrest of four suspects. 

Throughout the investigation, they liaised effectively with other organizations and disciplines, delegated to their team and mentored junior officers along the way. As a result of their dedication, professionalism and forensic expertise, three of the four accused took plea deals relating to the homicide. Never overwhelmed by the magnitude of this investigation, Lisa and Sherry went well beyond the average response and set a new standard for excellence. 

Award recipients are selected by an independent committee based on submitted nominations. Congratulations to the 2017 recipients. 

In addition to the professional training and awards presentations, delegates of the conference used the opportunity to network with their Atlantic Canada colleagues. This year’s conference organizing committee made a charity donation to The Cape Breton Cancer Society in memory of Tara Morgan, a former member of the Cape Breton Regional Police.