The communications director for the Hamilton Police Service died today after a 12 year battle with breast cancer, Catherine Martin was 52.
I first met Catherine in 2010. I went to interview her about a police matter, she was straight up. If she has something to say on behalf of the Hamilton Police Service, she said it to all at the same time.
She was fiercely protective of the service's image, and of investigations. She did not hesitant to state she wasn't going to provide information for investigative reasons, and made no apologies for it. She didn't bullshit. At times I was frustrated when she decided information shouldn't be public yet. I respected that everyone received the same answer. I respected she could justify her decisions when the information was provided before the courts.
In late 2012, I brought my camera to a Police Board meeting. Two days later, Catherine called me and asked how she could help me to livestream police board meetings, we reached an agreement - she arranged for a dedicated internet connection in the Boardroom, I give the Police Board a license to keep a copy for their archives, and the connection would be available for me to use during police press conferences.
Catherine was always planning for the next communications scenario.
As part of our agreement, we discussed public domain licensing of my videos during public safety and missing person events. HPS was willing to pay for the video to be in the public domain, I told Catherine I already planned to release into the public domain as a public service.
Only five months later, Tim Bosma was missing. I remember well how quickly Catherine's enacting her careful planning for a large missing persons investigation. You never saw her in front of the camera. She organized the press conferences, managed the HPS communications strategy, and made sure the public was informed.
As the Saturday approached during the missing persons search, I had a scheduling conflict. I was keynoting at a conference in Waterloo, and didn't wish to cancel. Catherine and I worked out that I would store my camera gear in her office at HPS headquarters, and she would give Dan Jelly the gear Saturday morning if there was an update press conference in the Bosma investigation.
She worked long hours that week - and she made sure the media knew not about her long hours but the long hours of her team and all at the police service - and never took any credit for it.
Catherine was fiercely loyal to Chief of Police Glenn DeCaire, and never hesitated to share that with the media. She was just as fiercely loyal to the Police Service, I can't count the number of times she debate with me how we in the media covered the controversies within the police service.
She earned respect among frontline officers. She was straight with people, I know a few officers who disagreed with her social media rules, yet respected how she provided clear reasons for them. Sergeant Jay Turner was one of her biggest fans. Him and I irregularly chat over coffee - standing on the street - when he was on the ACTION team, he often praised her communication skills and training.
She worked late hours on a regular basis, and more than a few times her and I would chat when I happened to see her in front of the police station after 9pm.
She was a leading in the local professional communications community, I often enjoyed our dialogues about online communications strategies especially how well thought our her ideas were.
Catherine earned my respect. I deeply saddened by news of her death.