For the first time ever, Chilliwack's top cop is a woman.
The mayors of Chilliwack, Hope, Harrison Hot Springs and Kent have chosen Insp. Deanne Burleigh to be the new Officer in Charge of the Upper Fraser Valley Regional Detachment (UFVRD).
Burleigh, a 27-year veteran of the force, will start in April. Burleigh had previously been the Richmond RCMP's operations officer and overseen the Mounties' activities in that city during the 2010 Olympic Games.
With the appointment, Burleigh becomes the first female officer in charge of a Chilliwack RCMP detachment.
She was chosen after an interview selection process conducted by the mayors in charge of the four Fraser Valley communities served by the UFVRD. The appointment was then approved by RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson.
Mayor Sharon Gaetz said the choice of Burleigh was unanimous among the four mayors-who were presented with a slate of nine different candidates to choose from.
"Deanne was perfect for the job," Gaetz told the Times. "She impressed us all with her interview, with her experience and with the ways she's going to work to make this detachment even better."
Gaetz said the mayors liked that Bur-leigh had experience working with Richmond, her communication style and the importance she placed on using data to make decisions.
Her gender, Gaetz said, "didn't factor into our decision-making." She added that Burleigh was the strongest candidate, regardless of sex.
But Gaetz was also clearly pleased that the mayors had the opportunity to appoint a woman to head the RCMP in Chilliwack.
"The fact that she's a female makes it interesting and a little bit exciting for me," said Gaetz, who said she remembered a time in the 1970s when even grocery stores limited the possibility of job advancement for women.
The new job also comes with a promotion to the rank of superintendent, which Gaetz said will make Burleigh one of just a few female superintendents in the province.
But Chilliwack is now accustomed to women holding positions of power, boasting a female mayor, MLA, and school district superintendent.
In an RCMP press release, the retiring officer in charge, Supt. Keith Robinson, threw his support behind his replacement.
"I have known her for a number of years and she has a common-sense approach to policing and is a very open, caring individual," Robinson said in the release. "I am confident she will be a great asset to the communities of the Upper Fraser Valley and will be a positive influence to the UFVRD policing model."
After beginning her RCMP career in August 1985, Burleigh spent most of her first decade as a cop in Montreal, where she worked in commercial crime, anticorruption and customs divisions. She also was on the Akwesasne Reserve during the OKA crisis.
She moved to B.C. in 1995, where she worked as a general duty Mountie and in the commercial crime section, before becoming Richmond's operations officer.