MEDICINE HAT, AB — Policing has often been thought of being a man's job.
It's a career that's physically demanding and mentally draining.
For Sergeant Carissa Witkowski, being a police officer wasn't something women did. But that didn't stop her from beginning her career 18 years ago.
Witkowski started with the Regina Police Service and joined the Medicine Hat Police Service in 2002.
“There are so many options within this job that you would be able to find something that you would excel at or that you're passion would be sparked by,” she said.
Of the 114 officers currently with the service, only nine are women.
“That's not acceptable,” said Police Chief Andy McGrogan. “We should have a range of a number of female members to be more representative of our community.”
He said there's a lot of misconceptions in the community about who and what police officers are.
That's why the service is hosting a 'Women in Policing' conference on March 18 at Medicine Hat College.
Staff Sergeant Jason Graham is on the recruiting team.
He said being a police officer isn't the old boys club it was once thought of.
“We're looking for people who have good common sense, can communicate, are social, problem solving and that are willing to be flexible and looking forward to a challenging and rewarding career,” he said.
McGrogan said in the past, the recruitment team has been made up of male officers, bringing in mostly men.
For their next recruitment, which is expected to happen in January 2018, two female officers, including Witkowski, have joined the recruiting team.
The service is also changing and becoming more accommodating to women who have families or are looking to start one.
McGrogan said the demanding schedule has forced some to step away from policing to focus on raising their children.
“We've had a couple, and very excellent, female members that have left us and they've left us because of lifestyle and family,” he said. “I totally respect that. But a couple of those ladies were amazing officers and it's a shame we lost them.”
But Witkowski said the more life experience you can bring, the more successful you'll be as an officer.
“A lot of times we're dealing with the public about life experiences and so we need to have compassion on that,” she said. “You don't have compassion on that unless you've experienced some of that yourself, if you've had hardships in your life, if you've had family struggles, if you've had children. Those are all of benefit to you.”
For more information on the conference, visit the Medicine Hat Police Service website here.
Watch CHAT News for Shattering Stereotypes Part Two, which airs on February 14th.
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