Ottawa police in race with other forces to boost diversity

'We are not truly reflective of the community we serve,' chief says

Insp. Carl Cartright

Insp. Carl Cartright, the head of recruitment for Ottawa Police, said a new recruitment campaign will focus on women and racially diverse members of the force. (Laura Osman/CBC)


Ottawa wants to change the face of its police force to be more inclusive, but it's competing with the OPP and other police services for women, racial minorities and Indigenous officers.

"We are short," said Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau. "We are not truly reflective of the community we serve."

Ottawa hired 25 new officers in 2016. Of those, five were women and six were racial minorities. Insp. Carl Cartright, who leads recruitment for police, said Ottawa is competing with other police forces for the same pool of diverse and qualified candidates.

Ottawa police chief Charles Bordeleau June 26, 2017

Ottawa police chief Charles Bordeleau speaks to reporters before a meeting of the Ottawa Police Services Board. (CBC)

The OPP announced last year it would be scrambling to hire 500 officers by the end of 2017, Cartright told the Ottawa Police Services Board Monday.

He said that means Ottawa will need to get ahead of the competition if it wants to attract the best people who represent all the communities of the city.

'To get these diverse candidates I think we're going to have to go and get them.' -  Carl Nicholson, Police services board member

"You have the candidates who never believe, or who never think of policing as a career. That's who we have to target," Cartright said.

Chief Bordeleau hopes to hire 25 new officers in 2018.

Cartright said police are working on a marketing strategy to attract new recruits that features recently hired officers of different genders and ethnicities.

Police service needs to rethink recruitment strategy: board

Board member Carl Nicholson said Ottawa police will need to be more creative.

"To get these diverse candidates I think we're going to have to go and get them," said Nicholson.

Cartright, who is of Haitian origin, said the first step will be to look to existing members of the police force to find out what worked for them, and what might be keeping their peers from joining.

"I want to hear from them," he said. "What was it about policing that got you but didn't get your neighbour?"

He said he hopes those discussions help police figure out how to eliminate barriers for women and minorities who want to join the police.

Last year, a scathing gender equity audit showed 23 per cent of sworn officers with the Ottawa Police Service were women, compared to 22.8 per cent in 2005.

Debra Frazer, Ottawa police corporate services director, said the service is working on a census to get a better idea of how well represented minorities and Indigenous people are among Ottawa's officers.

Early results show there has been an improvement when it comes to hiring racial minorities, but the number of Indigenous officers has dropped. The actual statistics were not available.

Cartright said it will also be important to reach out to specific communities that are under-represented among police and try to attract those people to new jobs.

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