In most instances, success is achieved through overcoming hurdles and paying dues. Peel Regional Police Service Inspector Ingrid Berkeley-Brown knows that well.
Just over three decades ago when now retired Toronto Police officer Sid Young encouraged Berkeley-Brown to join law enforcement, candidates were mandated to meet certain weight and height requirements.
“The first time I applied, I was told I was underweight,” she recalled in her keynote speech at the Peel United Cultural Partners (PUCA) 13th annual Black History Month celebration last Saturday night in Brampton. “I was tempted to return with weights in my pocket, but my brother dissuaded me from doing that. I joined a gym and worked at gaining muscle.”
The birth of the first of two children put her pursuit to become a police officer on hold for a few years.
“When I went back, I passed the weight test and was successful in the written and fitness tests,” Berkeley-Brown, who migrated from Guyana in 1974, said. “After an interview, I got that dreadful rejection letter indicating that I was not confident enough. That was not going to stop me. I did my research and learned about volunteering and the benefits that came with giving back. I saw it as an opportunity to develop my leadership and communicating skills while interacting with people from diverse communities.”
Poised and determined to achieve her goal, Berkeley-Brown applied to several police services in the province and the Ontario Provincial Police.
Peel made the call that she waited on for almost five years.
“The main message I want to leave with you today is that we all encounter some type of obstacles in our quest to realize our vision,” she told the audience that included Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell, Association of Black Law Enforcers president Keith Merith of York Regional Police and Peel District School Board trustee Meredith Johnson. “For some of us, these obstacles are large and may take much more to overcome, but the important thing is that we do our best to surmount these hurdles. It’s not always easy and may not come quickly, but we must show that we have done everything possible to achieve our goal.”
Prior to addressing the gathering, Berkeley-Brown was presented with a Community award.
“She’s one of our community role models and leaders,” said United Achievers Club of Brampton (UACB) past president Marjorie Taylor who made the presentation.
The youngest of 11 siblings, Berkeley-Brown completed high school at Sir Sandford Fleming and volunteered in the community and as a probation and parole officer. As Peel’s only Black female officer after graduating from police college, Berkeley-Brown followed in the footsteps of her father – Cardwell Pellew – who was a member of the Guyana Police Service. He died in 1966.
In her 28 years with Peel Police, she has worked in the child abuse & sexual assault, media relations, diversity, crime prevention and uniformed patrol & investigative units.
Last March, Berkeley-Brown joined Sonia Thomas of Toronto Police as the only Black female police inspectors in the country. She was promoted to the rank, joining superintendent Mark Andrews and inspector Radcliffe Rose as her Service’s only Black senior officers.
Remarried since 1989 to St. Lucian-born constable Joseph Berkeley who works in Peel’s Forensic Identification Services, Berkeley-Brown is pursuing a Master’s in Leadership at the University of Guelph. She expects to graduate this summer.
She’s also quite active in the community as a founding member and past chair of Peel Sisters of Colour in Action, the UACB, the Healthy City Stewardship Centre of Mississauga and the Caribbean Canadian Association of Waterloo which she chairs.
“Though I live in Cambridge, I wanted to be involved with these agencies and work with them to create change and build bridges,” said Berkeley-Brown who is assigned to the duty inspector’s desk. “They inspired me and contributed to my success as a police officer and active member in the community.”