Blue Line

Bytown police paid by the head

June 28, 2016  By Peggy Staruch

334 words – MR

Bytown police paid by the head

The National Capital Region has been policed by a number of agencies over the years. From the Bytown Association for the Preservation of the Public Peace – formed during Bytown’s unofficial incorporation in 1847 – to various municipal forces, provincial and federal police agencies, the Ottawa area has a rich policing tradition.

Ottawa policing has continued to evolve to meet the needs of the community. When the town of Bytown incorporated and adopted the name of Ottawa in 1855, chief Roderick Ross became the first chief constable. Life as an officer was not easy, with duties consisting largely of keeping public order. Much of the threat to that order involved liquor.


Rather than earn a salary, officers were paid $1 for every culprit they brought in. Since those humble and difficult beginnings, the Ottawa Police Service has evolved into today’s highly trained and technically equipped service.

{Women in policing}

Hired December 31, 1913, Flora Ann Campbell became the first female Ottawa police officer. Born in 1883, Campbell worked as a probation officer and superintendent of the women’s hostel before joining the force.

Although her duties were supposed to be the same as her male counterparts, Campbell was unarmed and did not wear a badge or uniform. She was given arrest powers but seldom used them.

Her actual role was to deal with charged women appearing in court. In many cases where the women were first time offenders, charges were dismissed and Campbell was tasked with helping them find employment. Her approach was to resolve as many conflicts as possible without stepping into a courtroom (similar to the ‘Restorative Justice’ process today). She also investigated allegations of child neglect or abuse.

Campbell died in 1961. Her years of service demonstrated the value of women in policing to both the police commission and the community.

Today, the OPS takes pride that almost 40 per cent of its employees are female. They work in all sections of the service.

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