Cst. Arlene Omilian joined the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) in Nov. 1979.
More than 40 years later, she says she still feels the passion she felt all those years ago.
“Just being able to make a difference in people’s lives that was really important to me and that’s what I enjoyed most,” she said.
Omilian is now the longest serving female police officer in EPS history.
She said while she doesn’t consider herself a pioneer, being a woman in the industry wasn’t easy at first.
“Attitudes from coworkers, attitudes from the general public — those were the barriers we had to break through,” Omilian said.
At the time, only four per cent of EPS officers were female.
“The attitudes really didn’t start changing until probably the 1990s,” she recalled. “It was tough go, but it was also very rewarding.”
Her dedication to the job over the years did not go unnoticed.
She won the first ever Patrol Officer of the Year award in 2011 and the Jim Dempsey Customer Service award — named after her former partner who died in 1996.
“Winning the Patrol Officer of the Year award — that was the biggest reward of my life,” she said.
One of Omilian’s stand-out memories includes helping London police after the subway bombings in July 2005.
“Another colleague and I, Joe Spear, took 160 pounds of Tim Hortons coffee over to the members there who were investigating,” she said.
Now her legacy will live on in a pretty unique way.
Omilian will be featured in a comic book along with other prominent women in policing like Annie Jackson — Edmonton’s first full-time female officer.
“To be on the cover with some pretty awesome women — it’s humbling,” she said.
Two years ago Omilian switched over to working in communications.
She said while the years have come and gone, her love of policing has always stayed the same.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” she said.
Now she sees the playing field as equal and encourages women considering the career to “go for it.”
“Enjoy the ride — don’t change who you are for the job.”