Graph highlighting how many male and female officers were working in each B.C. city in 2018. (Lisa Hedmark graphic)

White Rock only B.C. community where female police officers outnumber men

Provincially, only 24 per cent of officers are women; nationally, that number drops to 22 per cent.

The City of White Rock is home to the only police detachment in the province that has more women in uniform than men.

According to data collected last year by Statistics Canada, White Rock RCMP also has the highest percentage of female officers nationally.

Last year, White Rock RCMP was made up of 24 officers, 14 of whom were women – about 58 per cent. With the inclusion of the newly appointed Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls last month, the ratio currently sits at 56 per cent in favour of women.

For context, Courtenay’s RCMP detachment had the second highest percentage of women in the province at 37 per cent.

The most unbalanced detachment, according to 2018 data, was located in Salmon Arm, where all 17 officers were men.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University data visualization student Lisa Hedmark, who compiled the data for an assignment, said she wasn’t too surprised by the results.

Provincially, only 24 per cent of officers last year were women. Nationally, that number dropped to 22 per cent.

Hedmark, 23, picked the assignment on gender equity in police forces because her family has a connection to what they felt was discrimination in the police hiring process.

When Hedmark was 13 years old, her mother applied to be a transit police officer and passed all of the exams and physical tests “with flying colours.”

“I remember training with her when I was a kid.

“I would Rollerblade and she would run behind me to get ready for her physical,” Hedmark said.

However, Hedmark said, her mother’s application process came to a halt after she was questioned about her personal life, particularly when the interview focused on her being a single mother of four young children.

“We were living in poverty, and in Whalley, and I think there was a lot of other factors that added up to it, but the single mom of four definitely did not help our case,” Hedmark said.

Hedmark said her mother eventually started her own successful business.

Pauls said it’s just happenstance that White Rock has a majority of female officers.

Touching on his personal experience, Pauls told Peace Arch News Monday that throughout his 15-year career with the RCMP, about 50 per cent of his supervisors have been women.

Pauls described diversity – whether that’s ethnically, culturally or through lived experience – as a strength for police, but added that women officers can improve the community’s confidence in their work.

“I think that might include confidence in our understanding of violence-in-relationship investigations and sexual assault investigations,” he said.

The data Hedmark organized shows that large police forces in the Lower Mainland scored poorly when it comes to gender equity, which Hedmark found “most shocking.”

Municipal forces with more than 100 officers in the Lower Mainland that scored below the provincial average (23.95 per cent) include Burnaby (23.79 per cent); Surrey (20.28); Lower Mainland Integrated Teams (20.11); Delta (20); Richmond (18.78); Abbotsford (18.75); Greater Vancouver Transportation (17.65) and Port Moody (14.29).

Major Lower Mainland detachments that scored above the provincial average include Maple Ridge (32.73 per cent); Chilliwack (30.77); New Westminster (29.91); Coquitlam (28.05); Langley City (26.11); and Vancouver (25.43).

Across Canada, Hedmark found that there are only two municipal police forces that have more women than men in uniform, including White Rock’s RCMP detachment.

The other force that has more women is an RCMP detachment located in Warman Sask., which has five female officers and four male officers.

The data can be found here, however not all police departments reported the gender of its officers.

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