Story by Michael Seguin
Photography Courtesy Windsor Police Services
Windsor Police Services’ Deputy Chief Pam Mizuno knew something was up when she was invited to St. Catholic Elementary School last month.
Pam’s story is one of intense dedication and tireless community service.
Pam was born in Toronto, and raised in Brampton. After working in Kingston for a year, she enrolled in the University of Windsor’s Social Work program. However, she decided to make the leap from social work to policing when Windsor Police Services offered her a job as a Cadet in January 1994.
“I wanted to help people,” Pam explains. “That’s what my interest is. Helping people. I liked the idea that, with policing, you weren’t tied to a desk. That you’re a bit more involved with the whole community, which interested me.”
Pam attended the Ontario Police College in September of 1994. By December, she was promoted to Constable. “I’ve been with Windsor Police Services for 26 years,” Pam states. “I remained in patrol for about eight years. I patrolled the downtown area. At the time, we had the Downtown Station and the East End Station. So I only ever worked out of HQ. I enjoyed patrolling in the downtown area because it was busy. The call volume was high. There was a lot to learn.”
And Pam has learned a lot during her years with Windsor Police Services. After spending almost a decade as a Constable, Pam became the first officer assigned to the Provincial Asset Forfeiture Unit where she worked out of the Drug Enforcement branch. Following that, Pam returned to patrol where she worked in Traffic, Breaking and Entering, Investigations and more.
“There’s continuous learning,” Pam states. “That’s what attracted me to this career. To this day, we’re learning something every day. There’s always changes in legislation. You’re always having to keep up with changes in the community.”
Pam was promoted to Sergeant in 2009. In addition, Pam spent three years working on the Windsor Police Services’ Human Rights Project. “The Human Rights Project was modelled after a similar project in Toronto,” Pam states. “The goal of the project was to identify, eliminate and prevent any discrimination within the police service and in our service to the community. It was successful. We had it evaluated by two professors from York University.”
The project was a partnership between Windsor Police Services, the Windsor Police Services’ Board, the Ontario Police College and the Ontario Human Rights Commission. “The project’s focus was in four different areas,” Pam explains. “We had four different subcommittees. There was Accountability, Recruitment, Selection/Promotion and Accommodation. We also had a Public Liaison, to oversee our interactions with the public.”
The project involved about 35 people, plus community consultation. “One of the things we were focusing on, and continue to focus on, is the recruitment piece,” Pam states. “Trying to diversify our service so that we’re more reflective of the community. And that’s an ongoing challenge. That’s always going to be something that Windsor Police Services focuses on.”
When asked about her career’s defining moments, Pam reflects on her promotions and accolades, but remains focused on the community itself. “One of the moments that sticks out for me, that really keeps me focused on the importance of the police service, is when, as a newer Constable, I attended a fairly simple call with a family,” Pam recalls. “It was a child custody matter. And I assisted the family. I bumped into the gentleman a month later. He had written a thank you letter to the Service.”
For Pam, that moment taught her, early in her career, the importance of every interaction a police officer has with the community. “Everything we do, whether it’s the smallest little thing—or those big dramatic events that happen—is important to the community,” Pam clarifies. “It’s those moments that remind us of the reason why we need to be professional at all times. And how, for us, it’s our day-to-day work. But for a community member, that might be the one and only interaction they ever have with a police officer. And they’re going to remember it forever. For me, it’s all those small tiny interactions that are those constant reminders of how important our work is. And how important it is for us to ensure that our officers are out there, providing the best service they can.”
Pam credits her mentors with getting her to where she is today. “When I was younger, it started with my mother,” Pam states. “My mother did everything. She built a pot rack. She took woodworking classes. So, it was always, ‘You can do whatever you want to do, you just have to work hard at it.’ When they finished the basement, she was down there helping out with the electrical work and the framing. But she was also a stay-at-home mom. For me, she was a great example of what you can accomplish.”
When the previous Chief of Police, Chief Al Frederick, retired in February, the board began searching for his successor. When the position opened up, Pam decided to apply.
Last month, Pam took office as Windsor’s first female Chief of Police. Pam was presented with her badge by her two daughters and Mayor Drew Dilkens during a surprise assembly at St. Gabriel Catholic Elementary School. “That was nice, to be able to share that moment with my two daughters. And they were so cute!” Pam explains. “I was very humbled and honoured to have been selected by the board.”
Now that she’s taken office, Pam looks forward to serving Windsor as Chief of Police in the coming years. “It’s a challenging time for policing,” Pam admits. “Across Ontario, there’s issues with homelessness, addiction, mental health issues—all these things that we have to address in collaboration with our community. Our focus is public safety. But we can’t do that without collaborating with our community partners.”
While the coming years will indeed be challenging, Pam maintains a characteristic optimism. “I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Pam states. “I have a very good Senior Leadership team, as well as every member of the Service, both civilian and sworn. I’m very fortunate. We really do have some outstanding people that work in this organization. And it’s exciting to have everyone working towards our goals.”