Nova Scotia

Cape Breton sergeant honoured for role in mentoring female officers

Two decades ago, Erin Donovan-Mugford was among her department's first group of female officers.

Policing still a largely male-dominated profession

Erin Donovan-Mugford will receive an award for mentorship and coaching for a support network known as Atlantic Women in Law Enforcement. (Submitted photo)

Sgt. Erin Donovan-Mugford will receive one of six awards handed out this year by Atlantic Women in Law Enforcement for her work in mentoring new recruits.

Back when she started a career in policing, Donovan-Mugford was among the first group of female officers with the Cape Breton Regional Police Service.

Now a 20-year veteran of the force, she's using her experience to help others.

"When we were going through different maternity benefits, there wasn't anybody that went before us that you could ask those opinions," said Donovan-Mugford.

There were other small hiccups, too. Finding equipment that fit was particularly challenging.

"Before they had only ordered them in particular man sizes," she recalled. "We've gotten boots that fit, that come in smaller than size 13 for men. All of those things we've evolved and our department supports us fully."

Work/life balance

One of the biggest challenges for women in policing is finding balance in their lives, she said. Time management plays a crucial role in making sure officers don't become overwhelmed.

She said when officers head out the door, they are usually gone for 12 hours.

"You come to work and then you deal with a whole house of responsibilities," said the mother of two. 

"How to be super mom and be able to do your job efficiently while you're here, as well."

One of Donovan-Mugford's daughters has already expressed a desire to follow in her footsteps.

"The four-year-old right now says she wants to be a police officer, so I guess we'll see what happens," said Donovan-Mugford, who earned a bachelor's degree in community studies while carrying out her regular policing duties. 

"Right now they think it's very cool ... not quite sure when they become teenagers if they're going to feel the same way."

'Slow but progressive growth'

Sharon Warren, president of Atlantic Women in Law Enforcement, said policing is still a largely male-dominated profession, but slow gains are being made. 

According to recent statistics, there are roughly 15,000 female police officers in Canada, less than one-third compared to 53,000 male officers. 

"There has been a slow but progressive growth in the number of women in law enforcement, but we're still not where we need to be," Warren said. 

"We are expected to be a lot of things to a lot of people. There are a lot of challenges with respect to policing in general that's experienced by men and women."

Warren and Donovan-Mugford said having a network of women to discuss topics such as ethics and harassment is paramount.