Through the years, the role of a woman has expanded to more that just homemaker and mother. They now have careers or hold full time jobs. All over the world, women play vital roles in family lives and the business communities. Although this week's personality does not live in Ambergris Caye, her job responsibilities include each and every individual living on the island and the entire Belize District. The San Pedro Sun is honored to present a woman with a big responsibility on her shoulders – Assistant Commissioner of Police and Officer in Charge of the Eastern Division, Maureen Leslie.
Mrs. Leslie was born on October 21st, 1953 in Belize City to Louise and Frank (deceased) Bevans. As a young girl, she enjoyed the peaceful days of her childhood along with her two brothers and two sisters. Her family lived in a neighborly community where everybody knew everybody and they all took care of each other.
Mrs. Leslie attended St. John's Primary School and from the age of seven was enrolled as a Brownie. As part of the group, she participated in fund-raising activities, camping trips, swimming excursions, and parades. Leslie always enjoyed putting on her Brownie uniform and proudly walking down the street to attend various functions. After completing her primary school education, she attended St. Hilda's College (an all girl institution). While in high school, she graduated from being a Brownie to a full-fledged Girl Guide.
At St. Hilda's, Mrs. Leslie was always under the watchful eye of her teachers. "It was a strict, disciplined school but it shaped me into what I am today and for that I am glad," she commented. She was taught honesty, integrity, decency, respect for elders and for people's property, along with many other qualities she feels are slowly fading away in today's society. During career week in high school, her class received a visit from a female police officer who explained the benefits of entering the force. This visit "sparked" Leslie's interest and made her think long and hard about her opportunities.
Graduating from high school at the age of 16, Mrs. Leslie found it difficult to get a full time job at any business establishment. She applied for the position of an operator at Belize Telephones and was accepted. In 1971, the modern day telephone was not readily available in Belize. When someone wanted to place a phone call to the outer districts, they had to visit the telephone company; relay their message to the operator, who would in turn transmit the message in Morse code to the other districts. The customer would return in a few hours for the response to their message. Leslie proudly performed her duties until June of 1973 when she enrolled in the Police Academy.
In December of 1973, Mrs. Leslie graduated from the Academy and became a uniformed Patrol Branch Officer. A few weeks later, she was transferred to the Radio Room, where she relayed messages back and forth in Morse code to the various stations within the country. She remained in the Radio Room for two years and was then transferred to the Crimes Investigation Branch. There she handled the more serious crimes of the division and in 1978 earned her second stripe and first promotion to Corporal. As Corporal, Leslie handled section offenses and was part of the drug unit until she was stationed in Belmopan.
In 1980, Mrs. Leslie moved to Belmopan and for the following three years, she was the Belmopan Force's statistician (compiling statistics of the entire country). In 1982, she received her first Commissioner's Award for devotion to duty; her second award was achieved in 1983. By that year, she had already formed part of internal security and in 1986, she earned her third stripe and promotion to Sergeant. In that year, Leslie was transferred to the Police Training School as an instructor, instilling her knowledge into the new generation of police officers.
Four years later, Mrs. Leslie changed her uniform to full khaki when she earned the title of Assistant Inspector in Charge. She was then assigned to San Ignacio Town and responsible for the entire Cayo District. While at the San Ignacio Police Department, Mrs. Leslie was given her second pin or "pip" and was named Commander for the Cayo District.
In 1992, Mrs. Leslie was assigned to the Police Training School, this time as Deputy Commandant (three "pips"). As Deputy Commandant, she assisted the commandant in his responsibilities for all the instructors and classes at the school. In 1995, she was named Commandant, the first female to hold such a position; two short years later, she received her "crown" and title of Superintendent. Mrs. Leslie moved to Belmopan and was Commander in Charge of Personnel, Welfare and Sports. In 1999, she was awarded a British Empire Medal by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth for distinguished services rendered to the police department.
By 2002, Mrs. Leslie had earned the position of Senior Superintendent and Commander of Management Services in charge of half of the personnel in the entire country of Belize. In April of 2003, she was honored to receive the position of Assistant Commissioner of Police for the Eastern Division, which includes the entire district of Belize including San Pedro Town, Caye Caulker, Ladyville, Hattieville, up to mile 31 in the Northern Highway. She is responsible for 470 officers and over 150 police stations. "It is a lot of responsibility and it takes up all my time but I enjoy what I do!" Mrs. Leslie exclaimed. In 2004, she was awarded her second clasp, given for 30 years in service and good conduct.
In her free time, Mrs. Leslie enjoys spending time with her children: Denise, Dennis, Desiree, Dylon, and Derrick along with her two grand daughters, Khalin (6) and Tatyana (9). "My job demands so much of me that when I do get any time off, I spend it either resting or by dedicating time to my family," she said.
It has been a struggle for Mrs. Leslie trying to make her mark in the Belize Police Department, and she acknowledges that it has not always been easy. One of her biggest accomplishment has been changing the Policy for Marriage Allowances. When she was married in 1974, she was not granted the marriage allowance because, as a woman, she was not considered the "breadwinner" of the family. For twelve years, Mrs. Leslie fought long and hard until she was finally granted her payments. Today, all women officer that are married are allowed the marriage allowance. "As a woman it has been hard but women have to know what they want. No one is going to give it to you or help you all the way. As a woman, you have to push harder than men but if you push and push you will get there. There will be giant sacrifices but it is all worthwhile," she advised.
Mrs. Leslie has strived to be the best. "Nothing comes easy, everything comes with a cost but if you work towards a goal, the end results are very fulfilling," she ended. Always hard working, dedicated, ambitious and caring, Maureen Leslie has found a special way to serve and protect "Our Community."