Nfld. & Labrador

Diverse 2019 class of RNC cadets includes the force's first black officers

The force's first two black officers in its nearly 300-year history say they're a reflection of the increasing diversity of the community they serve.

Const. Jevaughn Coley and Const. Paul Growns made history at last week's RNC graduation, police say

Paul Growns, left, and Jevaughn Coley are newly minted RNC constables and the first black officers on the police force. (Patrick Butler/CBC)

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, one of just three provincial police forces in Canada and the oldest civil police force in North America, appointed its first constables nearly 300 years ago, in 1729.

And on Saturday, the force said it appointed the first two black police officers in its long history. Newly minted Const. Jevaughn Coley says that while he's proud to play a historic role on the force, his focus is on beginning street patrols and getting to work.

"I'm just ready to go out there and serve the community," said Coley, who is originally from Kingston, Jamaica, and moved to the province five years ago.

He and Growns will begin those street patrols on Sunday, when they will be paired with a coach officer for their first six to eight months on the job, said Const. Paul Growns, who also graduated in St. John's on Saturday. 

Growns said having officers like him and Coley will add to the increasing diversity of the force, which reflects the increasing diversity of the community it serves.

Becoming a police officer was a childhood dream, says Coley. (Patrick Butler/CBC)

"We have officers here already who are from Portugal and places like that," said Growns, who is originally from Canterbury, England. 

"We're just adding to the team."

A diverse cadet class

It's a team that the RNC which provides provincial policing services as well as police services to 15 communities in the province, including St. John's has actively worked to make more diverse in recent years.

In 2014, the police force produced a video meant to attract recruits from the LGBTQ community, and the force's then chief said the RNC welcomed recruits from that community.

This year, the force lifted and altered some of its requirements in an attempt to bring in recruits of varying backgrounds. The result was a tripling of applications for the 2019 cadet class, the RNC said in January, including more Indigenous and visible minority applicants.

Coley said he thinks it's helpful to have an officer from Jamaica, who has also lived in Cuba, on the force he might have an advantage talking with people in St. John's from the Caribbean community, he said.

At 48, Growns is twice Coley's age but says he still has a lot to contribute to the force after a 23-year career with the Royal Air Force, four years of which were spent stationed in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Growns, originally from the U.K., joined the RNC after a 23-year career with the Royal Air Force. (Patrick Butler/CBC)

"It's very similar for me to my military career," he said.

"I always wanted to be a police officer, and the RNC was probably one of the best organizations that I could have come to."

Becoming a police officer was also a long-held dream for Coley, and one he returned to after beginning a career in a different field in the province.

"When I got the opportunity to work here as an information management technician, it was a door opened for me," he said.

He began to think he could achieve that childhood dream after all, and Coley said now that he has, his mother who relocated with her children from Cuba to Canada for a job and better economic prospects is proud.

"She can't stop talking about graduation and how far I've come."

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