During her 41 years as a corrections officer in Alberta’s prison system, Dawna McGrath has seen a lot and heard even more, but never had the badge to prove it — until now.
As the province renames her position to be officially a "correctional peace officer," McGrath received the first new badge, number 001, to go with the title yesterday.
"I guess it means I’m number one," she said, laughing. "I just wanted to go to work and have a job. That’s what it was. I was going to work for only one year and here I am, still working, 41 years later."
McGrath, who began her career in 1966 in Fort Saskatchewan, said the inmate population has changed considerably during her time as an officer but the basic principles of working with inmates are still the same.
"I don’t know if I’m tough, but you just have to be reasonable when you work in situations with people like that," she said. "You just have to know how to talk to these people and get their respect."
Solicitor General Fred Lindsay, who presented her with the new badge in his legislature office, joked that badge number 007 should go to him, but it probably wouldn’t.
He said the recognition was long overdue for guards who play a valuable role in law enforcement.
"It also shows that we are united in the policing community," he said. "We certainly appreciate the job that they do."