She knew from a very young age that she wanted to have a job with an element of excitement and where she could help people daily.
It was because of a summer job at the OPP regional headquarters in Thunder Bay that Sgt. Ann McEwen found her true calling and her life’s passion.
During her work with the OPP as a summer student, McEwen said she was exposed to significant situations that the officers were responding to and that piqued her interest.
“I got to speak with the recruitment officer, and he shared with me some of the things that I could do in order to work towards a career in policing,” McEwen said. “It set my goals.”
After McEwen worked as an administrative assistant, helping officers in the crime unit with processing statements from the witnesses or the accused, she got to fulfill her passion by working on the road. This is reactive policing, where McEwen got to investigate based on calls she received.
“The thing I love the most about my job is the ability to help people, to have positive influence and help create a safer community,” McEwen said. “I’ve done a lot of community service. I love partnership building and I love talking to people.”
McEwen worked the road from 1993 to 2003, until she had her first baby. After her maternity leave, McEwen went into a community service role, which is proactive policing, completely opposite to reactive policing.
“Proactive work is trying to build the partnership by intentionally applying your efforts to build relationships with people, nurture their relationships with Indigenous communities, municipalities, learn about what their struggles are, learn about what services and resources they have and really get deep into where the systemic barriers are,” McEwen said.
McEwen added that through proactive policing, she realized the power of the investigative work that she does. The power of the police is their ability to mobilize and engage community partners in order to move them in a direction where they can apply resources collectively, in order to make communities safer, McEwen said.
As a manager of a platoon, McEwen said the most challenging part of her job is ensuring her team’s safety, given they cover a large geographical area.
“I want to make sure that we are working together and effectively communicating and supporting one another and making sure that I’m leading a team with empathy and compassion, and supporting them, but also ensuring a safe response and a quick response and integrity with our investigations,” McEwen said.
McEwen has been in policing for 29 years, and she is set to retire next year. She has been on the management team in the detachment and assumed the sergeant position in 2015.
“’Since the time I’ve been with the OPP, there has not been another female sergeant, so that’s a positive,” McEwen said.
Given McEwen is one of a few female leaders in the policing industry, she said men and women lead differently, but similarly.
“Women need to be at the table to give perspective,” McEwen said. “I just think that in order to have a well-rounded organization, it’s important to have both men and women at the table in a leadership role.”
McEwen is back on the road again, knowing how to mobilize the resources to help victims of crime.
“I’m a professional problem solver.,” McEwen said. “But this is a complex thing sometimes. And you have to figure out the problem to know where you can go in your community to help people and empower them to solve their problems.”
McEwen said the most important aspects of her life are family and health, which is why she stepped away from the OPP for a year because of a stress injury.
“I made a very tough decision to step away and to get myself some help because I went through some very challenging things in my life,” McEwen said. “I’m not sure how many people know of that. But I am proud of it.”
McEwen added that in looking after your mental health, it’s important to look after your physical health. McEwen said she goes to the gym every day, lifts weight and does strength training. “I just like to be outside; I like to be active on the water and in nature,” McEwen said. “I find nature grounds me. It gives me time to be mindful, and practicing mindfulness is an important part of protecting your mental health. It’s important to ask for help. And then once you ask for help, it’s important to accept the help.”