Spowart named Cornwall police chief

Shawna Spowart, seen here during a 2018 police board meeting, has been named chief of police for the Cornwall Community Police Service. She will assume the role in October 2021 for the retiring Danny Aikman. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – Cornwall has its first female chief of police.

Cornwall Police Services Board chairman Glen Grant announced this morning (June 3) that Shawna Spowart, deputy chief of police, will assume the highest position within the force in October.

In addition to being the first female chief in Cornwall, she also becomes one of only a few female police chiefs in Ontario, a position she is “deeply honoured” to hold, she said during an acceptance speech.

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch, Spowart says she envisioned being chief of police after becoming deputy chief three years ago.

“I think I had an idea that Chief (Danny) Aikman wouldn’t be here for an extended period of time so, I did have my eyes set potentially moving into the role of chief of police. I certainly had hoped that I would get the opportunity to present myself to the board as a potential candidate,” she said.

The 47-year-old chief-designate was asked by Cornwall Newswatch how she plans to tackle violent crime in the city, which has been steadily rising for five years. Spowart says organized crime and drugs are just some of the contributing factors but it’s about getting to the root of the problem.

“The presence of motorcycle gangs, which is not something we had seen in years past. Now we have this opioid crisis that comes with it, increase in crime, potentially increase in violent crime. We have to get to the root cause of these issues in order to tackle them. We’re never going to be able to address any issue without the partnerships throughout the community. This is never just a policing issue, there’s always a root cause to the problems and without addressing those root causal issues we’re aren’t going to be successful,” Spowart told CNW.

In her acceptance speech, Spowart, who has been part of local policing for 26 years, says she tried to “minimize or distract from the fact that I was female” saying it allowed her to “assimilate and allowed me to be recognized for the work that I was doing.” She felt she ascended the ranks “not because I’m female, but in spite of.”

The incoming chief says the road ahead will not be easy as the city deals with an opioid crisis “that is ravaging the lives of our families.” She says it will take cooperation and an integrated harm reduction strategy.

Mayor Bernadette Clement, being the city’s first woman mayor, gave some advice to Spowart. “It can be heavy to bear the weight of being first, but don’t let it slow you down. Let yourself be inspired by those…who find joy in seeing themselves reflected in you,” she said.

Spowart will officially take the chief’s position on Oct. 29, 2021 after Danny Aikman retires.