Kentville's new police chief will set Nova Scotia history

Julia Cecchetto has seen the role of women in policing change throughout her 27-year career. Now she's becoming the province's first female police chief.

Julia Cecchetto will be the province's 1st female police chief

Julia Cecchetto (centre) has been hired as the new chief of the Kentville Police Service. She's the first woman to be named chief of a Nova Scotia police force. (Submitted by Julia Cecchetto)

To celebrate her retirement from the Halifax Regional Police, Julia Cecchetto is setting a little history.

Cecchetto is taking over as chief of the Kentville Police Service, becoming the first female police chief in Nova Scotia.

Things have greatly changed since Cecchetto first started with the Halifax force back in 1990, when she was the eighth woman to join the police department. They were "interesting times," she told CBC's Information Morning.

Diverging opinions on women

"Even people I knew would say, 'Well, they don't let you in a car, do they? You work in the office?'"

It wasn't uncommon, she said, for members of the public to try to ignore her. "I would ask the question, they would respond to the male officer. So that was kind of a frustrating thing."

And while she found officers her own age were fully accepting of her, some of the senior officers at the time "were not as accepting and fairly upfront about their opinions about women in policing."

Watching things change

She quickly saw things change. The year she graduated from training, the number of women on the force almost doubled, said Cecchetto.

Today, HRP has 100 women among its ranks, representing about 20 per cent of the force — the same as the national average.

Cecchetto said she knew she didn't want to be "a 50-year-old female fighting with drunks [in] downtown Halifax," so she decided early in her career to plan accordingly. She became eligible for retirement in April, which happened to coincide with the opening in Kentville — and she wasn't ready to stop working.

Building community relationships

One of the differences she said she's already seeing is that on a smaller force, the chief takes on many different roles.

A big priority in her new job will be working with the community to build relationships, something Cecchetto said she's been doing in Halifax for the last seven years by working with the school system and community groups to help organize community events.