REGINA – The Regina Police Service is training its first ever female officer in its canine unit, though it’s still not meeting the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission’s female representation goal.
“Policing is an amazing job, and [the canine unit] is like the amazing job of the amazing jobs, so, as you can see, it’s lots of fun most days,” said Cst. Jess Sabo with a laugh, as her new partner started rolling on the ground in front of her.
Sabo spent Friday morning playing a hide-and-go-seek game of sorts in an west Regina back alley with Eko, a one-and-a-half-year-old purebred German Shepherd who is an expat of a breeding program by the RCMP in Alberta. Eko had to find items that carried a particular scent.
According to a June Board of Commissioners report [PDF], women in underrepresented occupations in the organization made up 4 per cent in 1992, jumping to 25 per cent in 2013 – well below the SHRC’s 2014 goal of 47 per cent.
“I think there may be still some stigma out there that policing is perhaps still a male-dominated career and, perhaps, our younger women don’t look at policing as a career option. They maybe don’t have a good enough understanding of what the job actually entails,” said Sgt. Kelley Berting, who is in charge of the recruiting unit.
Berting joined the force 16 years ago; being able to serve the community was the main draw, but the diversity of the career was also enticing.
“I’ve really had five different positions that I’ve worked in, so, in some ways, I feel like I’ve already had five different careers in a 16-year total,” she said.
Berting is one of the 100 female sworn-in members on the force, while the number of men totals 292. “So that’s something that we’re trying to change. By highlighting someone like Cst. Sabo shows that’s there’s a lot of really interesting aspects to policing,” said Berting.
Sabo, who takes Eko home with her everyday, may have made history, but that’s not her focus.
“It wouldn’t matter if I was like number one or number 100, it’s the same. You have to work just as hard,”said Sabo, who has wanted to join the unit since she became an officer.
Training wraps up next month. Sabo and Eko will serve together for five to nine years.