2 min

Expanding diversity in our police force

Adding pink to the thin blue line

The boys in blue are looking to add a little pink to the Ottawa police force.

For over a year now, the police department has been putting together the Outreach Recruitment Project to attract new recruits from a broad cross-section of society. The project is being designed to increase the diversity of the police force to better represent Ottawa’s population.

According to Deputy Chief Larry Hill, the police are very interested in attracting recruits from the GLBT community, a sector of the population where police forces don’t always seek officers.

“What is setting us apart from other departments is that we are actively and openly recruiting from all communities, including GLBT, and I don’t know if any other police service does this.

“It will give the community a sense of being part of the process,” Hill says. “Where we stand out as being different is that we actually are engaging the community to help us with this.”

Hill says the project is part of a recruitment drive to staff a growing force and to replace losses because of retirement.

The police have been working with several community groups such as the Community and Police Action Committee and the Police Liaison Committee.

“When a particular community has officers they know they can identify as being one of their own in the police, it lessens the impact of discrimination and fear that their community is not represented,” says Cynthia Cousens, chairperson of the Liaison Committee.

Cousens says it’s important that the GLBT community knows that there are career opportunities available to them in policing. She says far too often qualified people within the community are reluctant to seek a policing career because of cultural barriers and mistrust.

“Volunteer champions from within the community are needed to help promote policing as a career,” explains Cousens. “We need people who can help break down the barriers of mistrust and dispel any misconceptions of police work.”

Hill points out that the process is not simply meeting a quota and that there is no special treatment for minorities.

“If you meet the qualifications, we will look at you, but you have to meet the standards. If we ignored those standards, then we would be doing that individual a disservice by bringing them into the organization.”

Cousens says that the Liaison Committee will take an active role in getting the message out.

“We are not speaking for the police service, what we are saying is that there are opportunities for people in our community to become an officer. Being GLBT is not enough, you will compete with others, but the opportunity to be hired without discrimination truly exists.

The project hasn’t received final approval from the city yet but it does have the backing of the police chief and his executive.

Once the project is implemented, an internal survey will be conducted to determine exactly how broadly representative the police department really is.

* For more information, contact Recruiting Officer Sgt Syd Gravel at 236-1222 ext 2905.