Anyone who served in the Bermuda Police Force (as it was then called) during the 1960's through the 1980's, will have fond memories of Jean Vickers, nee Mattis, who holds a unique position in the history of the Bermuda Police as our first Bermudian woman police officer.
When asked what sparked her interest in the Police, Jean had no hesitation in giving credit to former Commissioner of Police, George Robins, who organized a forum at the Warwick Workmen's Club in late 1961, to which he invited any Bermudian females who might be interested in joining the Police Force. Jean vividly recalls that she was one of 13 women who went along that evening. Commissioner Robins told her "right off the bat" that he was looking for people with her personality. She promptly took the entrance exam and passed with flying colours.
Jean officially joined the Police Force on 8th January 1962, and a couple of months later, along with Betty Osborne and Gwendolyn DeGrille (originally from Belize and married to a Bermudian) she attended the first 15 week training course put on for local recruits from March - June 1962 shortly after the arrival of Chief Inspector Roy Chandler from the Cheshire Police in England, who had been hired by Commissioner Robins to head the new Training School at Prospect. Jean says she found Mr. Chandler to be a very enlightened instructor who gave her great encouragement. If anything, Jean was slightly lacking in confidence, and told Mr. Chandler that she didn't think she was very smart, but he told her that the only reason she would feel that way was because she had maybe never been taught properly. He had every confidence in her ability, and sure enough Jean excelled on the training course and graduated 2nd in her class.
Jean was posted to Central Division and placed with WPC Margaret Lester-Card who had been brought out from the UK as a trained officer. Margaret went on to marry another member of the Force, then PC Joe Colton, from Ireland, and she still keeps in touch with Margaret to this day. Jean gives a lot of credit to Margaret for giving her a thorough grounding in all aspects of police work and teaching her the ropes.
The head of the Police Women's Department at that time was Inspector Isobel Lee who had been brought out from the UK in 1961 by Commissioner George Robins to head the new section which was much needed to help deal with a variety of matters involving women and children. These included investigating the ill treatment, neglect or abandonment of children, offences against women ranging from rapes, serious assaults, indecent assaults and domestic violence, and handling female prisoners when they were arrested and needed to be searched and brought to court. Jean hastens to add that in addition to those duties policewomen investigated shoplifting, thefts and other petty crimes, along with malicious telephone calls, and would also be called on to perform Station duties.
In her typically polite way, Jean admits that in those early days it was a "man's world" and that some men were not so happy to have women in the Police Force, but she says she was never treated badly.
In the early sixties all the women police officers were assigned to the Police Women's Department under the command of Inspector Lee who Jean describes as "wonderful to work with; she always imparted her knowledge to me." It didn't take long for Jean to establish her reputation. In March 1964 she was awarded a commendation by the Commissioner for perseverance and diligence in the investigation of several cases of forgery, and in June 1966 she received a second commendation for obtaining excellent information resulting in the conviction of a man for a drug offence.
On 1st May 1968, Jean was promoted to Sergeant and appointed as second-in-command of the Police Women's Department which is now known as Community and Juvenile Services. It became increasingly clear that women police officers could handle a wide variety of police duties, and they began to be utilized in other departments such as CID, Operations (Traffic), and at Police Headquarters. Jean herself was attached to CID as an aide for several periods.
In 1966 Jean had been instrumental in implementing the Juvenile Liaison Scheme (see separate article), which was arguably the most effective project ever undertaken by the Bermuda Police to deal with juvenile crime. Sadly, it is no longer in use, much to the detriment of Bermuda's young people and to the community at large.
Never one to stand still for a moment, Jean also founded "The Black Stockings" in the early 1960's. This was a charity involving all the policewomen together with all the traffic wardens. Under Jean's leadership they held numerous fund raising events such as bake sales and raffles, using the proceeds to sponsor senior citizens for Meals of Wheels, sending children to both local and overseas Outward Bound courses, and sponsoring teenagers to enlist in 'Up With People'. In many ways "The Black Stockings" were a force to be reckoned with as they freely gave of their time and energy to support young people, and assist senior citizens who needed help; this assistance ranging from regular home visits to helping them shop for groceries.
As a young Sergeant, Jean was selected to attend a General Police Duties course at the West Yorkshire Constabulary Training School in Wakefield, Yorkshire, in 1971, and on successful completion of the course she married Darrell Vickers while in the U.K.
When Inspector Lee retired in 1977, it was obvious who would be her successor, and on 1st July that year, Jean was promoted to the rank of Inspector, taking over as the Officer-in-Charge of the Police Women's Department. The following year she successfully completed an Inspectors Initial Course at Devon and Cornwall Constabulary in England, and was then attached to the Strathclyde Police in Glasgow, Scotland, for a short period to study community policing.
Under Jean's command, the number of female recruits steadily increased as it was realized that women could make a valuable contribution in all areas of police work. Her tireless work did not go unrewarded. In 1984 Jean was awarded the Colonial Police Medal for Meritorious Service, and in 1987 she received the Colonial Police Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. As Bermuda's first woman inspector Jean became the first woman to take the post of Supreme Court Officer, and also became the first female A.D.C. - to Premiers David Gibbons and John W. Swan.
By the time Jean retired on 6th May 1987, there were at least 18 policewomen in the Bermuda Police Force. Although it was not until 1995 that the Bermuda Police changed it's name to the Bermuda Police Service, Jean demonstrated throughout her career how vital it was for the Police to provide a service and to be fully integrated into the community.
There is no question that Jean has always been held in the highest regard by her colleagues in the Bermuda Police, and by the community at large which she continues to serve.
Jean is the proud mother of three lovely daughters, and she remains active in the community. She has held the position of Chairperson of the Lorraine Rest Home, has served as a member of the Lorraine Rest Home Auxiliary, a member of the Hamilton Lioness Club and the Warwick Seventh Day Adventist Church. She continues to assist the elderly and young people; she is an avid gardener, and can be seen every morning during the school term acting as a school-crossing attendant on the Middle Road in Warwick outside Warwick Academy. Her beautiful smile is as infectious as ever.
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