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The compassionate constable

Q&A with alumna of Memorial's first police studies' graduating class

Campus and Community |

By Lisa Pendergast

Cst. Lindsay Dillon grew up in Conception Bay South, N.L., and today she protects the same streets she played on as a child.

She completed her bachelor of arts at Memorial in 2004 and began the police studies program the following semester, graduating with the first class of police officers from the program in 2005. During her career with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC), she has held positions in street patrol, the communications centre, the general investigation unit, the intimate partner violence unit (IPVU) and now the major crime unit (MCU).

Cst. Dillon discusses how coming to Memorial changed her career trajectory and what a day in the life of a police officer looks like.

LP: Why did you first decide to come to Memorial?

LD: It was a given for me, when I was graduating high school, that I was going to continue my education. Through high school, I always wanted to be a marine biologist.

When I came to Memorial, I was flip-flopping on what I wanted to do, so I did a year of general studies and then decided to do my bachelor of arts in French and English.

It was always a given that I would get a degree, I just did not know what the subject would be!

LP: Why did you decide to pursue the police studies program here at Memorial?

LD: I was getting ready to finish my BA, and my friend, who was a police officer at the time, said to me that I would make a great police officer.

I had not thought about policing before, and prior to the police studies program at Memorial, you had to go away to Holland College, which was not an option for me.

“I cannot picture doing anything else.”

So, it was not something that I had ever thought of. My friend told me about the new program at Memorial; she even brought me an application, so I thought, ‘Maybe I will apply.’

I did, I was accepted and now I cannot picture doing anything else.

LP: What is it like to be a female police officer in Newfoundland and Labrador?

LD: I have never been treated any differently than a male police officer. I do not know the difference between a male and a female police officer, it has never been an issue for me.

I think women, in general, bring some great qualities to any industry. In police work, women sometimes respond to calls differently, they may articulate things in a different way or have a different level of patience in certain situations.

When I started, this was a male-dominated profession, but it seems to be balancing out now. I have always been treated with respect and as an equal. In fact, for certain calls, I have been asked to respond, because I was a good fit for that particular situation.

LP: In your career, you have worked in several different units. What does your current role entail?

LD: I am still assigned to the MCU, but I am currently doing some work with the IPVU, temporarily. That is a support service for victims of intimate partner violence, and also patrol officers who respond to intimate partner violence calls.

“I have always been treated with respect and as an equal.”

I am trained in interviewing, so I can interview victims or suspects or witnesses. That is what my day looks like in IPVU.

From the major crimes perspective, I investigate major cases. It is like detective work — we do not have detectives, although that is what the role looks like.

LP: Do you believe intimate partner violence is increasing in the province right now?

LD: We have been focused on education and awareness around intimate partner violence, so I cannot speak to whether or not there is actually an increase, or if more people are reporting because of the awareness we are trying to put out there.

We are working with community stakeholders to let the public know that we are here if you need us. Contact us. We can help you with the situation.

For our support services, we will contact the victims and put in safety planning. We can put residential hazard or extra patrols on the house. We can do follow-up statements for the investigation. On average, there are between 25-35 non-reports of IPV before someone ever calls the police. So we put together historical reports.

We have a cellphone assist program, where if a victim has had their cellphone stolen or taken away, we can offer them a cellphone for safety purposes. We can help with the transition to a shelter, if needed, or protection orders.

So, I do see an increase, but I cannot say if it is an increase in intimate partner violence or reporting and awareness.

LP: Are you able to share some moments that stand out in your career?

LD: Every day is something new. Statistically, we cannot say that our unit has prevented a certain number of spousal homicides, but I would like to think that it is happening.

We are a proactive unit, in the sense that we are mandated to prevent intimate partner violence and I would like to think that we can reach victims before a major crime happens. That in itself is exciting.

I have worked on some major cases, we have major case management teams that work on homicides and major files. Last year we won an award for our work on one file, it was a policing in excellence award. It was really great to be recognized for our hard work as a team.

LP: How has your time at Memorial influenced your career?

LD: I think that having an education behind me really helps with things like warrant writing or general communication skills. I grew as a person while doing my undergrad — that growth has really helped me along my career path.

LP: What advice would you give to a Memorial student who wants to pursue a career with the RNC?

LD: It is a great career. If this is something that you want to do, stick with it. Find out what all the prerequisites are and just go for it. It is exciting, fun and scary all at once.

“I think that being sensitive is actually a good quality to have.”

When I was first applying, everyone would say to me, “You are too sensitive!” They never thought in a million years that I would be a police officer, but I believe that it has served me well in my career.

You cannot teach someone empathy and you cannot teach them how to sympathize with somebody. So, I think that being sensitive is actually a good quality to have.

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