What better way to celebrate International Women’s Day than by featuring Detective Constable Kerry-Anne Horgan and her recent designation as VPD 2023 Police Officer of the Year! This prestigious recognition is awarded each year to an extraordinary VPD member which Kerry-Anne most certainly is. Some of the reasons for her recognition this year include serving as a mentor and an inspiration, and for her selfless and inclusive approach to everything she does.
A few years after immigrating to Canada from South Africa in 2006, Kerry-Anne joined the VPD in 2011. With no previous law enforcement experience, she turned her passion for helping others into an incredibly successful career with the Vancouver Police Department. Starting in Patrol, and then moving to the Property Crime Unit and then to the Organized Crime Section, she now finds herself in the Investigation Division helping solve some of Vancouver’s largest and/or most difficult files.
This week, in a two-part blog, Kerry-Anne shares where she gets her drive to give back and provide front-line support to her community.
What inspired you to pursue a career in policing?
There are many major social challenges in South Africa such as inequality, poverty, and racial segregation. Because of this, I knew that at a young age that I wanted to get into humanitarian work and live a life of making a difference, so for many years I worked in the social services sector. During my first few years in Canada, I was an Interim Director for a Health Board, but I knew I wanted to play a more hands on role in helping those who needed it most. I was playing field hockey at the time with VPD officer Victoria Bryan who invited me to join her for a ride-along – and that was it for me. It only took one ride with Victoria for me to realize that this was the kind of hands-on work I was interested in.
For me, the ride along experience dispelled a lot of myths I had about policing. Growing up in South Africa, there’s no trust in policing or the justice system. I realized that in Vancouver, policing in Canada wasn’t that different from the non-profit social service I was already working in, except policing would allow me to get back to front-line work. Although at times using force is necessary and a requirement of the job, a large component is using strong interpersonal, social and de-escalation skills and therefore I was well-suited for a career in law enforcement.
Why was being on the front-line so important to you when you decided to make a career change?
When I went on the VPD ride-along, I specifically remember there was a woman whose son had become very angry with her and was being aggressive in her home. Two police officers responded, spoke with her, and actually sat and had a cup of tea to reassure her. While the tea didn’t solve the problem of her son, it was still a positive experience that calmed her nerves and gave her a positive social experience. I could immediately see the important impact that simple, yet personal, interaction had on her.
Because policing appeals to the humanitarian foundation I already have, it is important to me to be able to personally help people, especially those who might be having the worst day of their life. I know we can’t solve everyone’s problems, but we have a real opportunity to make small, important difference every day.
How has the role of women in law enforcement changed over your career?
Before I even applied at the VPD I knew it was a progressive police department – which is why I didn’t apply anywhere else while waiting out their hiring freeze. Since starting here in 2011, I’ve always been treated well based on my merit and not based on my gender. In terms of workplace culture, I’ve always felt that as long as my work ethic is there, I am provided with great opportunities, mentorship, and support. After living in South Africa, I was pleasantly surprised to find that all my preconceived notions of males and females in law enforcement were untrue here in Vancouver. With that said, it’s not perfect for everybody, but I have seen significant encouragement for females to take leadership positions in recent years.
What would you say to young women thinking about a career in law enforcement?
There are so many different opportunities and different roles in law enforcement that require a wide array of skills and strengths. Set aside any preconceived ideas you may have, sit down with a police officer and hear first-hand what the job truly entails. Some of the best police officers I am privileged to work with come from backgrounds such as paramedics, working in the service or arts industry. Diverse skills are needed in policing that all benefit the community in some way or another – all of which are rewarding and impactful.
Why did you get involved with the VPD’s Women’s Personal Safety Team?
The senior female police officers who were leading the Women’s Personal Safety Team were colleagues who I respected very much. It was a great opportunity for a junior officer like myself to get more involved and give back. In South Africa, volunteer work is part of your everyday life, so that was instilled in me.
“As a police officer I genuinely believe that not only do we have an obligation to the community during our working hours, but taking an opportunity to help outside of work hours it is also very important.”
Being part of WPST is also an important way to be proactive, to help prevent crimes before they occur, before that file lands on your desk because a bad thing has already happened. It is quite valuable to be able to share the knowledge you gain from previous files with the community in order to prevent similar crimes from happening again. That is why volunteering for WPST is a big part of my life outside of work.
There is also an incredible group of women that volunteer for WPST, many of whom have mentored me throughout my career. I am proud to be part of the growth of WPST over the years, seeing more instructors step up as the demand for the program dramatically increased from the community. In fact, I have become a coordinator of the program to ensure we are scheduling instructors appropriately, tracking our services accordingly, and doing our best to ensure we are accessible to different parts of the community who need this program the most. This passion to support women stems largely from the gender inequality I experienced growing up.
I would like to thank the Vancouver Police Foundation for funding the Women’s Personal Safety Team for more than 10 years now, and also for funding our ‘You Matter’ consent education program for teens. We simply wouldn’t be able to do what we do in the community if it wasn’t for the Vancouver Police Foundation.
Throughout her time with the VPD, Kerry-Anne has earned the respect and admiration of her colleagues with her consistent quality of work, her willingness to assist, and her humble demeanor. Her unmatched work ethic and her dedication to solving cases, arresting offenders, and caring for the needs of vulnerable victims is exemplary.
Part Two of Kerry-Anne’s story will appear later this week with a focus on her work in the Investigation Division including her success as part of the Forensic Interview Team.
Happy International Women’s Day!
The Vancouver Police Foundation supports programs and initiatives that fall under one of four pillars: Youth Programs, Mental Health & Addictions, Community Outreach & Engagement, and Technology & Special Equipment. You can help build a safer Vancouver by donating to the Vancouver Police Foundation.