CPS Interview: Inspector Leah Barber

CPS Interview: Inspector Leah Barber

Could you let us know a bit about yourself and your role within the Calgary Police Service?

I have been a member of the Calgary Police Service (CPS) since July 1992. Prior to that, however, I was a member of the RCMP, so in total have been policing since 1987.

Over my 26-year career in CPS I have worked in District 4, Youth Education, and District 7. I was promoted to Sergeant in 2003 and worked in District 2 as a Team Sgt, then a Community Team Sgt. I moved to the Security Clearance Unit and was promoted to Staff Sergeant in 2008 when I moved to the Child Abuse Unit. After 3 years there I transferred to District 4 as the Admin Staff Sgt and in 2014, I was promoted to Inspector. I stayed in District 4 for another 2 years and in 2017 I moved to my current role as the Inspector in charge of the Community and Youth Services Section. This is an amazing Section because most of our teams incorporate external partnerships with City of Calgary Neighborhood Social Workers, Calgary Transit, Calgary Standards (Bylaw), Alberta Health Services Mental Health Clinicians, and one trauma dog. In total there are approximately 150 police members (sworn and civilian) and another 35 partner members. As with the name, we are focused on working with youth, diverse cultures and victims of crime to provide a wraparound level of service to the community. I had the opportunity to work as a School Resource Officer earlier in my career and must say that our commitment to the community makes me proud to be a member of CPS.

What inspired you to join the police service?

I would like to say that I always wanted to be a police officer, but that would not be true. Growing up with a father in the RCMP, I was ‘educated’ in policing from birth. In my youth, women were not allowed to be police officers and so it was never something I aspired to. In 1985, after my 3rd year of University, I had the opportunity to work as a summer student in the RCMP – and I was hooked. When I graduated from university, I joined the RCMP and spent 5 years working in Northern Saskatchewan. I then applied to CPS for numerous reasons and entered training in 1992.

What parts or memories stand out as most meaningful to you during your time as a member of the police service?

There are many great, and some not so great, memories during my career. I have had the pleasure of working with amazing people and have made lasting friends. Each area that I have worked I found exciting and challenging. New experiences are necessary to grow and develop and I was lucky to have had, and continue to have, many. I loved catching ‘bad guys’ and knowing that I helped victims so they were safe.  I loved working in the schools, partly for the kids I helped, but also for the relationships I built with the school staff and parents. I love working with so many bright and dedicated people, and watching the junior members and civilians grow and succeed. In summary, I love being a cop.

Are there any areas that you believe need to be worked upon to advance women’s roles in police services?

I can say that over my 31 years in policing I have seen the role of police woman change substantially. In the RCMP, because they are so spread out, there were very few police women on the front line. Because of that, there was no mentorship or support for women specifically. Immediately upon my move to the CPS, I noticed the different attitudes about police women. We were treated more equally in CPS and there didn’t seem to be any overt bullying attached to being a woman. I think that having women in policing ensures that policy and procedures reflect the lived experience of women. Police services need to represent the communities they serve and that includes women. I believe that often women put their own careers on hold while they have families and even upon returning to work, they stay in roles that prevent upward movement to have a healthy home life. Women often will wait to be asked to apply for promotion or a specialty unit, rather than stepping up and telling their boss that they are ready for the move. We need to be more assertive when it comes to our careers and ultimately as we become senior women in policing we need to support and mentor those coming up behind, so they can be great leaders in the future.

What is some advice you would give to other females hoping to join the police?

If I was going to give advice to women who want to become police officers I would say “go for it”! Its not an easy career, it is hard to balance work and home life, you change after you become a cop – no matter how hard you may try not to. I would say to stand up for yourself, manage your career; be assertive. Never lose your integrity, in the end it is all we have. It is the toughest and greatest job out there, and I look back with no regrets on my choice of career!

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