When she was a little girl, Acting Sergeant Lisa Paniak played her own version of the classic kid’s game, Cops and Robbers. “I ran around the neighbourhood putting tickets I had drawn on peoples’ cars,” she says, laughing at the memory.
Paniak, who works in the Edmonton Police Service’s Forensics Unit, likes to think of it as the first clue she was destined for a career in law enforcement.
By the time she enrolled in university, Paniak was set on becoming a lawyer. But a chance encounter with a fellow student who was interested in policing led Paniak to reconsider her career choice.
“I enrolled in Sociology instead,” she says. “I thought it would be a better fit when I became a police officer.”
Her application to the Service coincided with a two-year hiring freeze. Paniak didn’t let that discourage her. She used the time to work and gain more life experience.
Paniak was eventually hired as a member of Recruit Training Class #85. She remembers it as “a life-changing experience. I learned to push myself. I found out I could get through anything if I put my mind to it.”
After graduation, Paniak spent ten years as a frontline patrol officer in West Division and South Division, back when “the entire south-end of Edmonton was the responsibility of one division. It kept a person hopping.”
Paniak has always believed in taking responsibility for her career as a police officer. When she decided she wanted to expand her skill set, she chose Forensics. “I liked the idea of being hands-on the scientific aspect. Detailed, meticulous work appeals to me.”
As a Forensic Identification Investigator, Paniak handles as many as thirty files at a time. “You have to have an open mind. This is no place for tunnel vision. You have to look at the big picture. Things can change very quickly.”
Although she is currently in the promotion process to become a full-time sergeant, Paniak hopes she can remain in Forensics for a little while longer. But even if her promotion leads to a new position in a different area, Paniak is still enthusiastic.
“Wherever I go I take something from it. I have the mindset that you can’t always control where they put you, so you might as well make the best of it and learn something.”
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