HER fighting spirit led to her shattering the glass ceiling of the Jamaica Police Federation, making her the first female chairperson of the decades old institution.
But this cop didn’t start out in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF); in fact, her destiny seemed to be a career in banking before she took the opportunity to give back to Jamaica through service.
Born and bred in St James, Corporal Arleen McBean attended Mount Alvernia High School before moving on to the Montego Bay Community College. Fresh out of college, and barely out of her teens, she entered the world of banking.
“My first job was in banking at Mutual Security, then National Commercial Bank (NCB) took over. That time was a bit uncertain for me as we had some restructuring and my supervisor’s position was made redundant. I was transferred to Hanover and stayed with NCB for about two or three years. Then in 1999, at age 21, I saw an opportunity to give back to my country and took it,” she told All Woman.
That opportunity meant leaving her growing banking career and joining the JCF. For many, McBean’s decision seemed absurd, but she contended that her patriotism was more important.
“Being in banking then moving out and going in the hot sun was challenging in the initial stages; of course I had to adjust to a lot. It was a different environment, different food, getting accustomed to drills. I was 118 pounds and five feet, nine inches tall. So imagine that,” she said.
“But I decided to serve the people of Jamaica. It was a decision I had to make because [for a period] in high school I wanted to go in the army. But I had a change of heart when I saw women leading the JCF like Ionie Ramsay Nelson and Jevene Bent, and I saw them in action. They were the trendsetters and I wanted to emulate some values that could be worthwhile and impact others.”
With 19 years in service and now the first female chairperson of the Federation, McBean’s experience spans the Motorised Patrol Division; the Corporate Strategy Coordination Unit; Support Branch, which at the time included marine, motorised, traffic and mounted troop, and now the Police Federation, where she has been serving for nine years.
She previously held the position of director of training and development where she helped implement a Spanish for law enforcers course in tandem with the Faculty of Education and Liberal Studies at the University of Technology.
Currently reading for a law degree from the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean, McBean has also spearheaded training in many different areas to include advocacy and representation in collaboration with the Norman Manley Law School
She is also known for the Hair Style Project, which has enabled the women of the JCF to look more feminine as they are now allowed to wear small, fashionable earrings and braids.
McBean is also passionate about addressing the lingering issue of a 40-hour workweek for rank and file members.
For McBean, being the first female chairperson of the Police Federation represents a new era within the societal framework, which she dubs “the breaking down of the Jericho walls”.
“I call it gender equality being revealed and being visualised and being at the forefront. I call it women empowerment. I call it going beyond boundaries when it comes on to your femininity and I call it the breaking down of the Jericho walls with the shout of ‘equality, equality’ going around and around and making that sound for women to be more positively seen, to take over a particular space, and do it with all their fibre and being. That is where we are today,” she said.
Further, she believes she was selected as the first female chairperson because of her capabilities to lead the charge for the improvement of women and in general, the welfare of her colleagues.
“When those Jericho walls came tumbling down and the shout for equality came about, the rank and file population of the JCF saw that the wall was broken down and they saw the female that they believed could lead the charge because equality now exists and they can get on board and feel the balance, energy and be part of the system,” she said.
She added: “The Federation being 75 years old had not seen a female [head] and there is no female on the end of commissioner. I don’t know if I’ll break that barrier. A lot of evolution is going on. You see the shift and the new era. I’m expecting great things. A lot of my male friends will say women in leadership is just emotional intelligence, but women leaders are trailblazers when it comes on to leadership worldwide. I am for equality when it comes on to sharing the pie, but when we have males dominating a space where females are competent to do the work, I say to females, challenge yourselves. It is either win, lose or draw, but never give up.”
Outside of work, McBean enjoys family time, praying, attending church and spending time with her 15-year-old son. But one of her top priorities is to encourage people to maximise their capabilities.
“I say to my people, never marginalise your capabilities. The moment you do that you will never be able to come out of that boundary you set. Your goals and attainments are limitless.”
By: Kimberley Hibbert