Ottawa police to debut new policies after gender equality audit completed

The Ottawa Police Service has added three policies to its hiring and promotion practices following the release of the final report from a court-mandated gender audit.

Police service only passed audit by 2 percentage points

Ottawa police have several new policies to adhere to after a gender audit was recently completed. (George-Etiénne Nadon-Tessier/CBC)

The Ottawa Police Service has added three policies to its hiring and promotion practices following the release of the final report from a court-mandated gender audit. 

In August 2012, officer Barbara Sjaadrd filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario stating that Ottawa police supervisors refused her request to enter a training program because she was going to be on maternity leave. When she returned from her leave, she said she was not allowed to participate in a promotion process because she had taken time off after having a child.

Ottawa police settled through the Ontario Human Rights Commission in 2015, and agreed to take action to address gender-related problems in their ranks. This included a gender audit. 

Ottawa police force has changed its promotion policy to account for applying while on leave, expanded experience considerations and official ethics statements for members sitting on hiring panels. 

They've also amended their transfer policy to match. 

Choosing your own gender pronoun, appropriate washroom facilities, provisions for officers undergoing gender transitions and providing support for family and pregnancy-related leave were also added in a third policy amendment. 

Most officers said workplace culture was negative

The audit found that 23 per cent of sworn officers with the police service are women — a rate that's slightly higher than the national average of roughly 20 per cent, but which has only grown marginally in the past 10 years.

According to the parameters of the review, an organization must score 61 per cent or higher on a series of categories to be considered compliant with the gender equality standards in the province's equality framework. Ottawa police scored 63 per cent. 

As part of the audit process 127 officers were interviewed, and the report found about 85 per cent described the workplace culture as negative, and that it affected their behaviour at work. 

The force plans to hold briefings for senior staff to educate them about the policy changes. 

The report will be discussed at a meeting of the Ottawa Police Service board's human resources committee on Friday.