For Staff Sargeant Poppy Hallam, serving on the RCMP is nothing short of a life calling.
Her draw to serving in law enforcement began at the tender age of 14, growing up in the Comox Valley. When her boyfriend got an afterschool job cleaning out police cars, Hallam would tag along to help. It wasn’t long before she began to feel a sense of awe for the profession and she knew she wanted a career that gave back to the community. Throughout high school, the pull towards law enforcement stayed with her. Though a knee injury in college sidelined her path for a few years, several ridealongs and the experiences of RCMP friends reawakened Hallam’s interest in policing. She completed her RCMP training in
Hallam is the first female Staff Sargeant for the Sunshine Coast, taking her post as the detachment commander in 2018; currently she supervises 35 police officers and 10 support staff. In her 19 years of service, Hallam has served in various smaller communities including Port Hardy, Campbell River, and, prior to coming to the Sunshine Coast, Fort St. James. Although she admits facing a few gender issues throughout her career, she has taken them in stride and reflects that overall, gender hasn’t impeded her trajectory, “I’ve never felt that my gender got in the way of me doing what I want to do in my career. I’ve always felt like the processes to move forward have been fair.” She stresses that all officers take the same exams and training, and go through the same promotion processes, regardless of gender.
Being an effective part of the RCMP is not about gender, but about knowing your strengths and weaknesses, she continues. “No matter for men, women, however you identify, you need to find what works for you, what you can contribute; once you’re authentic and stick to your true self, there’s a spot for you,” Hallam explains. For her part, she has found that smaller community policing is where she thrives. Amongst many things, she values the relationship-building that happens naturally in rural areas and the ability to more easily find common ground with people. In her leadership roles, Hallam has found that finding her own path and unique voice is imperative. “When you’re responsible for different personalities, it’s really important to know what people need from you and be able to adapt your style to most.”
Hallam says the RCMP has been trying to recruit more women, but currently, the female ratio is not yet 30%. For women who are interested in a policing career, Hallam suggests going to information sessions or any other public offerings to get as much information as possible, or even volunteer. Hallam, herself, volunteered for Citizens on Patrol in her hometown just prior joining the RCMP, and every time the police radio crackled to life, she felt alive, excited—a sure sign of where she belonged.
“If you feel any of that—you get excited when you see police vehicles or emergency services— you really should explore It,” Hallam advises. “There are so many different roles within the RCMP. If you don’t want to be on the frontline, there are many support roles in the RCMP or in other police agencies. There are so many ways to serve your community or to volunteer.”
On that note, Hallam is looking to grow several volunteer initiatives on the Sunshine Coast such as Blockwatch, Citizens on Patrol, Crimestoppers, and the Auxiliary Program. These will undoubtedly provide many opportunities for the community to learn more about policing and invest in the safety and wellness of the Sunshine Coast.