Name: Ingrid Berkeley
Place of birth: Georgetown, Guyana
Current Occupation: Retired Deputy Chief / Peel Regional Police
First black person to: First Black female police officer with the Peel Regional Police (1986) / First Black female superintendent in Canada (2016) / First Black highest ranking female Deputy Chief in Canada
"I think the one thing I would say, to anyone coming in, and this is, you know, whether they're black, or female, and I and I'm going to look at those two parts, because that's the two parts, you know, for myself, I would always say you have to be remain authentic, be yourself, policing, I could have joined that organization and be this rough, tough, you know, but that's not that was never who I was, and I was not going to change to be that person."
Can you tell me what led you to become a police officer?
My father was a police officer in Guyana, my father died when I was 6.
So, you know, I really didn't know a whole lot about policing, per se. I was doing volunteer work for probation and parole, and I happened to meet a Black police officer from Toronto Police. His name was Sid Young, and he told me, have you ever thought of becoming a police officer?
So, when I went to Toronto Police in 1981. Back then there was a height weight requirement to become a police officer. So, you stepped into this recruiting area, and the first thing you did was step on the scale. I was disqualified from the process because I was told I was underweight. But I still continued, I decided to join a gym, you know, get a little bit buffed, I suppose to gain that weight.
"I always say I was always tempted to go back with weights in my pocket and step on the scale. But I thought, yeah, that wouldn't work, right."
Did you feel a lot of pressure being the first, did you know that when you applied for these positions that you know that you're going to be the first Black or not? And if you did, did you feel any pressure from holding this position?
So, I'd say when I when I applied to be a superintendent and Deputy Chief. Superintendent, I didn't think I was going to be the first black female. I had a young lady that went through the Police College with me this was back in 86, we really were only two black females in a group of 300, and she was promoted to inspector before me.
Then I became the first black female superintendent, and I didn't know that. But the Deputy Chief, I knew that I was going to be that first black female.
I did feel pressure. Because I knew that there's kind of two ways, right? I knew the community was, depending on me, too. They're all supporting me. But I also felt (pressure) inside the organization. I think there were people that were looking for me to fail.
As I moved up, they were just looking to see if I made an error, and I made mistakes along the way, it was magnified. So, I knew there was that pressure, because now you have to be that perfect individual, right?
You know because I was very active in the black community. I feel like I had that support out there when I was called on to do a lot of speaking engagements sitting on panels and stuff like that. It can be overwhelming. But it was also my way of giving back to them for what they did for me on the way up as I moved up the ranks. So, appreciate it.
"I just felt I could not do anything to disgrace the Black community. "
What advice do you have for younger self, or others coming up in the same way that you did, whether becoming the first Black, or just within your, your own field of work?
I think the one thing I would say, to anyone coming in, and this is, you know, whether they're black, or female, and I and I'm going to look at those two parts, because that's the two parts, you know, for myself, I would always say you have to be remain authentic, be yourself.
Policing, I could have joined that organization and be rough and tough, you know, but that was never who I was, and I was not going to change to be that person. So, you have to be authentic because that's what's gonna guide you, you don't change who you are, to fit in. Because you're not being yourself, your true self, when you're doing things. You'll be who you are, and I think that takes you a long way.
So, for me, that's the key message I would give to anyone going into any organization even if it's a male, right? Just be true to yourself, and I always like to say be authentic and remain authentic throughout? It's gonna guide you, and it's gonna take you very far.