Ottawa

Isobel Granger 1st black woman to rise to rank of Ottawa police inspector

Insp. Isobel Granger, sworn in Tuesday as the first black woman to reach that upper echelon of the Ottawa Police Service, says she wants her achievement to inspire other women from marginalized communities to do the same.

Promotion to police service's upper echelon 'a long time coming'

Insp. Isobel Granger is the first black woman to rise to the rank of police inspector at the Ottawa Police Service. (Supplied photo)

Insp. Isobel Granger, sworn in Tuesday as the first black woman to reach that upper echelon of the Ottawa Police Service, says she wants her achievement to inspire other women from marginalized communities to do the same.

"It's never been about me," she told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Wednesday. "There's always a bigger picture, and I know that as I go forward, others see that they can."

Ideally it would have been easy, but it hasn't been easy.- Ottawa police Insp. Isobel Granger

The rank of inspector is just two below chief. It involves managing multiple teams and having a strong grasp and understanding of both global issues and the local community, Granger said.

"It's significant because your span of control increases," she said. "You really have to have your finger on the pulse."

'An ocean of emotions' 

During her drive to the swearing-in ceremony Tuesday, "an ocean of emotions" poured over her as she reflected back on her decades-long career, she said.

"It's been a long time coming," Granger said. "Ideally it would have been easy, but it hasn't been easy."

Her career began in her home country of Zimbabwe where she became the first black officer in the white ranks of a segregated police force. She left Zimbabwe in 1989 and five years later became one of the first black female officers hired by the Ottawa Police Service.

Granger said she remembers talking to other officers about where she came from, and said many didn't know very much about her home country. 

Since then, she's worked in the force's youth section, as well as its diversity and race relations unit.

'A life of educating people'

Her life, she said, has been one of breaking down barriers and educating people.

"What I learned about people is that people are sometimes really intimidated and afraid of what they do not know," she said. "So you can actually stand up and fight and become adversarial and combative, or your life can become a life of educating people."

Granger said her experiences will allow her to use her new rank to help break down barriers between police and marginalized communities. 

"I see myself as a connector and helping to facilitate conversations because a lot of things that happen are because of a lack of communication and a breakdown of communication," Granger said.

In 2016, she led a new outreach group to engage members of the city's Somali community following the death of Abdirahman Abdi, a 37-year-old man who died following a violent altercation with police.

"When I move forward, I don't look at moving just myself forward, but how can we bring us all forward," she said. 

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