On their first day 27 years ago at the Ontario Police College at Aylmer, Ingrid Berkeley-Brown and Sonia Thomas connected and became instant friends.
They were the only two Black female recruits in a class of about 300.
“We obviously identified with each other and developed a close relationship,” said Thomas, who became Canada’s first Black female inspector in February 2011.
Last March, Berkeley-Brown joined Thomas as the only Black female police inspectors in the country. She was promoted to the rank with Peel Regional Police, joining superintendent Mark Andrews and inspector Radcliffe Rose as the Service’s only Black senior officers.
“Back in college, we drove back and forth from Aylmer to the city and I knew then that Ingrid would go far in this profession because of her passion to serve and an unwavering work ethic,” said Thomas, who is with Toronto Police. “It’s sort of ironic how our careers have evolved to where we are at in our professional careers.”
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.
“There are 11 children and I am the only one in policing,” said Berkeley-Brown. “I have worked hard to get to where I am and I certainly think I deserve this promotion. It’s a proud moment for me and my family.”
The youngest sibling migrated in 1974, completed high school at Sir Sandford Fleming H.S. and volunteered as a probation and parole officer.
“I was working with young people trying to find community service placements for them when I met Sid Young (a former Toronto Police Service officer) who asked me if I had ever considered policing as a career,” said Berkeley-Brown. “At the time I didn’t, but the more I thought about it, it made sense for me because I figured it was a profession that would allow me to get to the young people first at the intervention stage.”
Five years after Young’s suggestion, Peel recruited Berkeley-Brown.
In her nearly three decades on the job, she has worked in the child abuse & sexual assault, media relations, diversity, crime prevention and uniformed patrol & investigative units.
“I have had a fulfilling career so far,” she said. “Through this job, I have had the opportunity to network with many communities and mentor young people. That aspect of the job has been very appealing. Of course, there have been challenges along the way, but I have never allowed that to discourage me. I have been treated with respect from my fellow officers. I don’t know what was said behind my back.”
The United Achievers Club of Brampton is one of several community organizations Berkeley-Brown has worked closely with over the years.
“I have known Ingrid through the support of the Peel Regional Police to the United Achievers Club dating back to the infancy of our mentoring program,” said past president, Marjorie Taylor. “She continues to be supportive of many organizations in the community and she has been featured in many of her Service’s recruitment advertisements. We hail her new appointment.”
Association of Black Law Enforcers founding member, David Mitchell, said Berkeley-Brown deserves the promotion.
“I have known Ingrid since she was a sergeant and she’s a very competent person,” he said. “Her appointment is indicative of the progress in the organization under the new chief (Jennifer Evans).
Berkeley-Brown and Evans, who began her policing career 30 years ago and was appointed Peel’s first female chief last October, worked briefly in 11 Division’s criminal investigation bureau when they were both constables.
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.
The mother of two and recipient of the Police Exemplary Service Medal is also the president of the Caribbean Canadian Association of Waterloo Region and an avid soccer player and marathon runner.