Two 1980s graduates share their experience working for the Hamilton Police Service.
By Jenna LeBlanc '21 (Journalism program intern)
If you asked a group of kindergartners what they wanted to be when they grew up, there’s a good chance you’d hear several kids saying things like a teacher, a detective, or a police officer.
As a child, these seem to be the careers that make the world turn – the coolest professions that a "grown up" could have.
For Mohawk College alumni, Marcine Blake ‘88 and Laurie Porthouse ‘82, however, a career in policing didn’t seem to be the path for them.
Marcine came to Mohawk College in 1985 as an athlete. While at the College, she studied Recreation and Leisure and worked in the Athletics Department for five years. She was also a member of the Mountaineers Women’s Basketball team and was later inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame.
"I knew I [wanted] to be something to do with athletics," Marcine said about her career options coming into college.
Though a career in policing wasn’t originally something she was planning on, a former Mohawk professor and officer for the Hamilton Police Service saw Marcine’s involvement at Mohawk and mentioned how he thought she had the personality and the skills to become an officer with the HPS.
"He sent me the application and I looked at it for a long, long time. It wasn't something that I thought I wanted," Marcine said. "And then I finally decided to put my application in and about six months later, I was hired."
Marcine joined the Hamilton Police Service in 1991. She and another officer who was hired around the same time were two of the first Black women hired by the HPS.
"We should never be complacent, and I don't think that anybody should be saying [things like] 'Oh, we've got one Black inspector, one female inspector, we're good, right?' I don't think that should be the parameter [of success]."
– Marcine Blake '88
While Marcine says representation has come a long way since her start with the service, she knows representation of the diverse communities in the Hamilton area, served by the police service, can still be improved.
"I think that we've done work and just like everywhere else, I think there's still work to be done," Marcine said. "We should never be complacent, and I don't think that anybody should be saying [things like] ‘Oh, we've got one Black inspector, one female inspector, we're good, right?’ I don't think that should be the parameter [of success]."
While representation of the community in which they serve and protect greatly contributes to the success of the police, she knows it is important that trust and making sure community members recognize she’s a human being outside of her uniform, as well.
"For me, it's important for my community, my Black community, to know who I am. They know I'm Officer Blake, but they also know me as Marcine."
Over her 30 years with the police service, she has worked numerous positions, including uniform patrol, as a member of the criminal investigations branch, and as a recruiting officer. Today, she serves as a senior constable. Marcine plans to retire within the next several months after a very rewarding career.
Laurie Porthouse came to Mohawk College to study business with hopes of one day working in management at a bank. She worked in the financial sector for ten years, and eventually did join the Assistant Manager Training program at a bank.
Policing was never on the radar for Laurie, however, after a series of serious bank robberies and a suggestion from an acquaintance who happened to work for the Hamilton Police Service, she decided to give it a go. She has now been with the HPS for 27 years.
She spent her first ten years working as what she called a "floater," where she covered maternity leaves and worked on different projects, which she greatly enjoyed due to the variety of work. Then, she became the volunteer administrator for the community policing initiative.
"[In the position], I got to oversee [community policing centres], which meant supervising about 240 volunteers," Laurie said. "And it also helped me connect with Trent Jarvis from Mohawk, who was searching for placements for co-op students. We started talking and one thing led to another. I started being able to take Mohawk co-op students from Police Foundations and placing them in the community policing centers. And it was an incredibly successful program."
Currently, Laurie serves as a recruiter for the HPS. Before the start of the pandemic, her job involved going out and hosting events in the community for possible recruits. However, measures put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 has made this difficult.
"We are able to do Zoom chats, but I think all of us really miss being able to have a big recruit information night," Laurie said. "It’s weird because you really rely on that interaction and people are much more likely to put their hand up when you're in person."
Laurie is also currently a part-time professor in the Advanced Police Foundations program at the College.
Both women fondly recall their experiences studying at the College, with Marcine describing her experience simply as "incredible" and Laurie calling Mohawk an "amazing, supportive, full-of-life environment."
Both Marcine and Laurie continue to be actively involved in the Mohawk College community, with Marcine serving on the Alumni Advisory Council and Laurie serving on the Program Advisory Committee for the Justice Studies department.
Though neither of them joined Mohawk College to pursue a policing career, they both found fulfilling careers in the field. Now, they are working to help current students succeed in the coolest professions that a "grown up" could have.