Vancouver police diversity not keeping pace with city's population, CBC survey finds
Police union president says he's surprised by the numbers
A CBC survey of national police forces across the country has found most major law enforcement agencies fail to reflect their communities' diversity — including Vancouver, which had one of the poorer ratios in the country.
In May, CBC News surveyed all major police forces in Canada in order to establish a national snapshot of the racial diversity of key law enforcement agencies.
The survey found only 22 percent of the Vancouver police force are from visible minority groups while 54 per cent of Vancouverites match that demographic.
Of Vancouver's 1,400 police officers, only 280 are from visible minorities, while 28 are Indigenous according to figures supplied by the VPD.
While the city's police department has declined to comment, Tom Stamatakis, the president of the police union, says the number surprises him.
"I was under the impression that we were sort of ahead comparatively with other major forces and certainly that's what the outcome was when we looked at it in the past," he said.
Stamatakis believes the force does a lot when it comes to efforts to be racially diverse.
"We run recruiting fairs and events right across the Lower Mainland. We appeal to the various community groups within the broader population in Vancouver. We have relationships with most ethnic groups within our city and continuously try to recruit from those groups."
He says it's difficult because there are a number of factors to look at in recruiting.
"Including making sure that people have the right skills and abilities."
Policing not an attractive career path
"The other issue is many of the communities we want to recruit from so we can have that diversity, don't see policing as the first option when it comes to a career choice."
So Stamatakis feels the broader question is why more people don't pursue policing.
"I think in some ways it's because of the type of work, which is not appealing to a lot of people. The kind of recruit we're looking for with level of education and other qualifications or characteristics we're looking for, they have other options and those other options don't always include working on weekends or shift work."
Only one major city in Canada — Halifax — had a police force as racially diverse as its community. Nunavut had the lowest percentage of diversity in its police department compared with its population.
"Sometimes it's hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison because you have police forces that are different sizes and there are different factors that come into play from province to province or region to region across the country," Stamatakis said.
"What I will say though is that I think most police forces across Canada are actively trying to recruit people into their organizations that do reflect the diversity of whatever community they police."
The figures don't sit well with some, including Sheila North Wilson who is the grand chief of Manitoba's Keewatinowi Okimakanak.
In Winnipeg, only 17.9 per cent of the force's officers identify as Indigenous or as a visible minority, compared with 32.5 per cent for Winnipeg's general population as reported by Statistics Canada.
"It's no wonder there are problems on our streets. It's no wonder that there are trust issues," she said.