1957 marked a historic year for the Regina Police Service with the hiring of the first female constable. The idea of having women as police officers had been debated since the early days of the police service, however, although there were female matrons and administrative staff, it wasn’t until 1937 that the real advocating began for women to become officers. The Regina Local Council of Women presented a strong case for the introduction of female officers, stating that they would be better able than their male counterparts to handle certain situations, including issues with women and girls, notification of death, prostitution, public health, youth delinquency and domestic cases. Despite the fact that there were female officers in 7 other Canadian police services, the city council voted, in 1940 and again in 1942, not to introduce women into the police service.
Over a decade later the debate was reopened, influenced largely by the development of new units within the police service for drugs, youth offenders and morality, and by the forward thinking of the new chief, Arthur Cookson, who felt that female officers would be invaluable to the development of the police service. As a result, in 1957, the Regina Police Service which numbered 126 officers hired its first female constable, Beryl Beck. Originally from Yorkton, Beck had moved to Regina for a career in nursing. However, after seeing the job advertised, she applied, and was later quoted in the newspaper as saying she was moved to apply because of the “spirit of adventure and an urge to help wayward girls”.
Assigned to the morality unit, Beck worked primarily with juveniles, female offenders, missing persons, special inquiries, and liaising with social welfare. However, she never shied away from executing any duties that were expected of a police officer, even if it meant apprehending 6’ foot tall criminals who towered over her more diminutive size. As the police service was still adapting to having a female officer, no uniform provisions had been made, nor did Beck carry a gun. She was however equipped with a billy club for her own safety. Beck greatly enjoyed her 1 ½ years with the Regina Police Service, however, she wanted to return to nursing and to devote time to raising a family, and resigned in 1959.
Beryl Beck lead the way for female officers in the Regina Police Service, and no doubt influenced the careers of the women who came after her, paving the way for women such as Helen Kaeser, the service’s 3rd female officer, who went on to have 30 years of service and become the first women to be promoted to inspector. Today, the Regina Police Service has 104 women serving as police officers, comprising 26% of the total number of officers.
(credit: Keepers of the Law, Regina and District Old Time’s Association, 2005.
Annual Report. Regina Police Service. 1913, 1957.
Regina Police Service. Microfiche.)