Trudy Murray waited patiently for the announcement that came on May 23, 1974. RCMP Commissioner Maurice Nadon told the country that the RCMP would accept applications from women as regular members of the force.
Murray asked a local RCMP officer if there was anything she could do to get ready and he said, “Learn how to type.”
Trudy was one of two hundred women from Nova Scotia who applied, and she was one of eight who were accepted.
“I went to Windsor Rural Detachment and asked if I could write the entrance exam,” she explains. “The sergeant there told me he wasn’t sure if women were writing the same test as the men. I convinced him to let me write. To his surprise I passed.”
She left her hometown of Hantsport, Nova Scotia in July 1975, and joined thirty-one other ladies from across the country as part of the third troop of women to go through the RCMP’s world famous Depot. At that time the Force was still trying to figure out how women would fit into the predominately male culture. On February 8th, 1976, her troop stood outside the drill hall in red serge, short skirt, pantyhose and pumps while the freezing cold -30 February winds blew around them. All thirty-two graduated that day.
Her troop counsellor told her, “You know Murray, I don’t think you’re going to last six months in this job.” She was at the top half of her class, loved being at Depot but he didn’t appreciate her outspokenness when she sometimes challenged his decisions. She set out to prove him wrong.
She was the first female Mountie posted in Stephenville, NL where she reported to ex-Newfoundland Ranger, Staff Sgt. William Mullaly. Not sure where Stephenville even was, she left the ferry in Port Aux Basques and followed the Trans Canada Highway until she spotted ‘Stephenville Xing’ sign. Not realizing ‘Xing’ meant ‘Crossing’ or that Stephenville Crossing and Stephenville were two completely different places she proceeds to drive on and find the RCMP Detachment. She marched up to the main counter and a big burly Mountie comes out and asks “Can I help you?” To which she proudly tells him, “Constable Murray reporting for duty.” The Mountie points at the door and yells, “Murray! What the Jesus are you doing here. Get up over the hill to where you’re posted.”
That was her introduction to policing in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“Stephenville was a great posting for a new recruit and my favourite,” she says. “It was so busy, and I learned the fundamentals of police work there. I was also accepted by my coworkers.”
The public often gave her a second look when she was on patrol and the children called her the ‘Lady cop.’ It took awhile for the public to get used to a woman in uniform.
“A gentleman called the detachment and asked to speak to a police officer. I told him I was a police officer and he said ‘No, one of them real Mounties, a man.’” Never missing an opportunity to have a little fun, she put him on hold for a few minutes then picked up the line again, saying, “ I am sorry there are no “real Mounties” available, can I help you?” The gentleman finally clued in and went about giving his complaint.
In the 1970’s pretty much everything women in the Force did became a first. After Stephenville she transferred to Labrador West Detachment in Labrador City. It was 1978 and she became the first female to serve in the Big Land.
While there, she was asked to do a prisoner escort. The RCMP had charged a man from Quebec with Break and Enters in Lab City. At that time, the man was serving time at Dorchester Prison for other crimes and had an extensive record in Quebec. The RCMP needed him brought back to Labrador City for court. Murray, still a young constable, was assigned to escort this prisoner.
She showed up at Dorchester with the paperwork and the Corrections Officers asked where the other police escort was. To which Murray responds, “I’m by myself.” The officers were a bit taken aback but she proceeded to take custody of the prisoner and drive him to the airport. They had a stopover in Halifax on the way back to Labrador. While in Halifax Airport they had a bit of a wait, so she arranged to be met by the Airport RCMP Members who let them wait at Airport Detachment. The members later escorted Murray and her prisoner to the departure gate and again, were surprised to find she was by herself. Once on the plane for Wabush she told the prisoner he had to behave if she was taking the handcuffs off. He agreed and she had no problem with him.
Later that year, the same prisoner was back again, “This time he gave me a clock he had made for me in Dorchester. He said I treated him like a human being. “
Of course, policies changed for prisoner escorts over the years. Now there are two members and one has to be the same sex as the prisoner. “I used to do a few escorts of male prisoners” she laughs, “And I always told them they had to use the bathroom before we left because I could not go to the washroom with them.”
She stayed there for three years, then transferred to St. John’s Highway Patrol. She was sent on the Breathalyzer course and eventually completed 501 breath tests over her years on detachments. In 1983 the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary expanded operations to Mount Pearl and surrounding areas, so Murray transferred back to Stephenville. Eventually moving on to Gander in 1989.
In between her postings she had married another member, Russ McCabe. She had her first son, Luke (1986) while in Stephenville and her second son, Shaun (1990) in Gander.
She was promoted to Corporal in 1994 in charge of Carmanville Detachment. By then the marriage was over and she took on her new duties as a single parent policing twenty-eight communities. That was also the year she received her boots/breeches and tunic. “They were the same as the males’ uniform,” she remembers. “Before that women wore the red blazer, white turtleneck blue short skirt, pantyhose and black pumps. It made for very cold parade duties.”
Her career came full circle in 1995 when she was given an opportunity to return to Depot, but this time as an instructor. She spent four years helping shape the next generation of Mounties before transferring back to Labrador, landing in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Murray calls Happy Valley- Goose Bay her boy’s favourite place to live. “Every day challenged me in different ways. It was a great experience and I worked with so many great people.”
She was promoted to sergeant in 2003, by this time her career had taken a different turn. “I transferred to Halifax Headquarters to begin a career in the human resources side of the house.”
She entered the Officer Candidate Program and received her commission in 2004 as the Officer in Charge of Staffing and Recruiting in Newfoundland and Labrador. That was followed by short stints as Acting Superintendent of Human Resources and then Clarenville.
In 2012, after thirty-seven years in the RCMP, she made the decision to hang up her spurs. Making her the longest serving female RCMP police officer in Canada.
Inspector Murray reflects on her career, “I can’t think of any other career that would have provided me with so many opportunities and the chance to live in three provinces and travel like I did.” “The people I met in the communities I served were a great cross section of people from all over Newfoundland and Labrador. Many I still call my friends today.”
The one thing she is adamant about is, she always had the best job in the world. She is a respected police officer who worked shift work for over twenty-two years at seven detachments, two of them were isolated posts, she spent four years as Instructor at Depot, and eight as an Inspector in Human Resources. Over the last 18 years, she was a single mother raising two boys.
A highlight of her career was being a Watch Officer under the Silver Command at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. She jokes, “The only resource I could not deploy without Gold Commander's approval was the aircraft.”
She was also presented with the Canada 125 Medal and Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. Now retired, her boys are grown men with their own career, Inspector Murray stays active in the RCMP Veterans’ Association, serving as President and now past President.
When asked the secret to her long career, she answers, “The RCMP isn’t a job for everyone, but for the right person, it is a fantastic career, every day brings new challenges and many rewards along the way.” Then adds, “My advice to anyone thinking of joining, stay in shape, keep fit throughout your career. I was proud to run the PARE the last day of work and made good enough time to join up again. Not bad after 37 years.”
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