Pioneer in police force Jinty loses cancer fight

Janet 'Jinty' Kerr
Janet 'Jinty' Kerr
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Tributes have been paid to Janet “Jinty” Kerr, one of the first senior female police officers in Scotland, who has died aged 63.

In a 34-year career with Lothian and Borders Police she worked her way through the ranks, becoming the first woman to take charge of the city’s drugs squad. She had been battling cancer for five years, and died on August 31.

Today colleagues described her as “a real character” and paid tribute to the determination and humour she brought to every aspect of her life.

The daughter of Sheriff Robert Reid Kerr and Mona Kerr, Miss Kerr joined the then-Edinburgh City Police in 1968, aged just 19, at a time when there were only 40 women in the force. She went on to become the first woman to join the chief constable’s office, the first to be in routine charge of the police cells in the High Street, the first to be an inspector at the West End and the first chief inspector at the city’s B Division.

Three years after joining she won a transfer to CID, and in 1986 she was promoted to inspector, in charge of policing one-third of the city from the West End station.

She later became the first woman ever to be promoted to chief inspector, although it was her appointment as the first female drug squad chief in Scotland, in 1993, that brought her into the media spotlight.

She spent three years with the drug squad as detective chief inspector.

In 1996 she was promoted to superintendent when she became the sub-divisional commander for Wester Hailes. It was a post she held until 2001 before moving to police HQ at Fettes to take charge of the Force Inspectorate department.

She retired in 2002.

Former deputy chief constable Tom Wood paid tribute to his former colleague, and admitted she had been one of the first to pave the way for women in the police service.

“I knew her very well, almost for all of her operational career,” he said. “She was a great character, one of the first senior women police officers, as up until 1975 women who got married had to resign.

“It was a difficult environment for a woman at that time, but she had a strength of character that carried her through and she set a fine example.

“She had a great sense of humour. She had been ill for some time, but typically for her she never lost her character.”

Independent Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald, who worked with Miss Kerr on the board of the Scottish Prostitutes Education Project, said: “Jinty was an absolute star. Apart from liking her, I greatly admired her. It’s such a loss.”

Miss Kerr was also a keen golfer, and was the first female captain of the Glen Golf Club in North Berwick.

Current club captain Mike Currie said: “She was an amazing character and made an incredible contribution.”

Miss Kerr is survived by her sisters Gemma and Pandora.

Her funeral will be held at 1.15pm on Friday at Christ Church, Kerse Lane, Falkirk.

gedwards@edinburghnews.com