Toronto's first Black female cop celebrated
May 16, 2018
The sight of a tall and elegant policewoman helping people cross the street between Eaton and Simpsons stores caught the attention of Stan Pinnock on his first visit downtown shortly after migrating from Jamaica in 1964.
It was Gloria Bartley, Toronto’s first female Black police officer.
Hired in 1960 a few months after the late Larry McLarty became the city’s first Black cop, the pioneer passed away in hospital last month just 12 days after her 84th birthday.
“I will never forget the impression she made on me the first time I saw her,” Pinnock said at the funeral. “She was beautiful and immaculately dressed. She was so stately that I just stood there looking at her. When me and my brother were finished shopping, I went back to look at her again. Every weekend when I wasn’t working, I would go down there to see her. Sometimes, she was on duty and sometimes she was not. If she was there, that was my treat for the day.”
Pinnock, who joined the Service in August 1965, and Bartley were assigned to the 1966 Santa Claus parade.
“We were far away and didn’t get to connect,” he recalled. “But she was always in my thoughts. This lady was special as she cut down the trees and forests for all of us who followed her in the job. That’s something we should never forget.”
Ed Reid, who was sworn in in June 1963 as the Service’s second Black male officer, said Bartley was courageous and personable.
“She was always smiling and she had to be a very brave person to apply at the time,” he said. “Gloria and Larry paved the way for those that followed.”
George White said there was a buzz in the Service when Bartley broke the female colour line.
“She was the first and people wanted to know who this person was,” said White who retired in 2001 after 36 years on the job. “She was attractive and affable in addition to being confident as she was a police officer back in Trinidad and Tobago before coming to Toronto.”
Migrating in the late 1950s, Bartley spent seven years with Toronto Police before leaving in 1967 to raise a family.
Prior to 1972, female officers that had a baby had to resign.
She married Ralph Bartley and they had a son, Alonzo Bartley.
“My mom was very quiet and reserved,” said her son. “Even though she was a trailblazer, she didn’t go out of her way to tell people. That wasn’t her style. She was very humble, but an extraordinary woman in the sense that she was always willing to give sound advice. My mother lived a full life.”
Mark Saunders, Toronto’s first Black police chief, acknowledged he’s standing on the shoulder of the trailblazer.
“When we talk about pioneers and we look at the environment when Gloria joined this organization, we are talking about a period when the Service was extremely male dominated and women had to work five times harder to be recognized for their legitimacy in policing,” he said. “The challenges and tribulations she would have been subjected to would have been enormous, yet she held her ground and paved the way for others, including me to have a different starting point when it comes to the legitimacy discussion in the policing environment. I have the utmost respect for champions like her.”
Several retired and current officers, including inspector Sonia Thomas attended the funeral.
“One could only imagine what it was like for her serving as a police officer back then,” said Thomas who is the Service’s highest ranking Black female officer. “She would have faced a lot of hurdles. She however persevered and in doing so opened the door for people like me. I owe her a debt of gratitude. It’s because of her that I was able to attain historic heights.”