Nicole Braithwaite

Community Policing / School Liaison Officer
• West Vancouver, Canada
Nicole with child - Behind the Uniform

“You think you know it all and, really, you know nothing. Volunteering in an African orphanage with no electricity or running water was a completely different experience”

Growing up I was obsessed with the World Vision charity commercials. It felt like while I had so much, the children I was seeing in a different part of the world had so little. Could I help somehow?

I told my Dad that when I was old enough, I was going to volunteer. He promised me that if I still wanted to do it when I was 19, he’d buy me a ticket.  

Well, when the time came after completing my first year at University, I gave Dad a ‘holy crap’ moment – I said I’d take him up on the offer.  

Thankfully, in spite of his reservations, he’s a man of his word and the trip to Ghana changed my life.  You think you know it all and, really, you know nothing.  Working in an African orphanage with no electricity or running water was a completely different experience; I soon realised how big the world is, and how small my everyday bubble was.  

In Canada, the idea of the nuclear family has shifted. Life here is very expensive and because of that, both parents tend to work. We both end up working to live and, in my experience, this can put a strain on kids. Kids need attention and they crave attention from their families, but when both parents are working and cannot pick them up from school, or afford extracurricular activities they end up filling their time with other activities, like hanging out at the mall. As a consequence, we see some get into bad habits, unable to resist the temptations of alcohol, drugs and getting into trouble with the police.

“Instagram helps me humanise the role of a police officer and have a positive dialogue, particularly with girls”

Where I stayed in Ghana, families lived for today. The focus isn’t on buying things they don’t really need, it’s on feeding themselves today, not thinking a month or year ahead.  On one hand, life’s hard but in other ways it is much, much simpler. 

My job now in community policing is built on openness and trust.  I work with more than 20 schools in West Vancouver and they all have me on speed dial – principals, teachers and counsellors. I’m the first officer here to use personal Instagram to directly communicate with citizens.  The first thing I say in a classroom or assembly is ‘follow me on Insta’ – and they invariably do.  

I get all kinds of questions sent to me, it could be about cyber bullying, or what to do and what not to do when approached by an officer.  On more than one occasion, young women have asked to meet for a coffee to discuss issues they wouldn’t raise in official channels, such as ‘how to say no’ in a dating scenario.  

Instagram helps me humanise the role of a police officer and have a positive dialogue, particularly with girls. I’m showing them that policing is not just a man’s world anymore and I’m hopeful that some of them will choose it as a career.

Whether in West Africa or West Vancouver, I’ve learned that humans are amazing and there’s so much we can learn from each other. My golden rule is to do one small thing every day to make someone else happy.  Smile, slow down a little and appreciate all you have to be thankful for in your daily life. 

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Using social media to inspire & empower young women
Nicole in Uniform - Behind the Uniform
Nicole in kitchen - Behind the Uniform

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