Edmonton

Edmonton Police Service launches recruitment campaign aimed at diverse applicants

The Edmonton Police Service recently launched a recruitment campaign with the goal of attracting a more diverse array of applicants to the force.

Demographics of Edmonton's police force don't match those of the city's population

In the most recent class of 93 EPS recruits, 28 per cent are women, 17 per cent are part of a visible minority, and eight per cent are Indigenous, police said. The majority of Edmonton police officers are still white men. (CBC)

The Edmonton Police Service has launched a recruitment campaign to attract a more diverse array of applicants to the force.

The campaign showcases stories from EPS officers of diverse backgrounds in an effort to encourage others from "non-traditional backgrounds" to apply, police said.

The campaign, called "Inspired By," features police officers like Const. Michelle Choi, who immigrated from South Korea to Canada when she was a child.

Choi said she hadn't considered a career in law enforcement until her parents encouraged her to give it a try.

"It was a little struggle for me just because, like, we don't have any law enforcement background, we don't have any military background," Choi told CBC's Radio Active. "So it was brand new."

Choi has now been with the EPS for six years, and said her fellow officers come from a variety of cultures.

"It's quite diverse," she said. "I work with a few other people on my squad that are of different backgrounds."

The Edmonton Police Service launched the "Inspired by" campaign to diversify new recruits. (CBC)

Changing demographics

Out of more than 1,800 Edmonton police officers, 18.9 per cent are women, 7.6 per cent identify as a visible minority, and 2.9 per cent are Indigenous, EPS said.

But about 50 per cent of people in the Edmonton economic region are women, 27 per cent identify as a visible minority, and six per cent identify as Indigenous, according to 2016 Census data.

The demographics of a police force should represent the population it serves, University of Toronto criminology professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah said.

With the exception of Indigenous groups, ethnic and racial diversification happened quickly in Canada, he said.

"Any institution needs some time to catch up with changing demographics," Owusu-Bempah said. "But I think there was a lack of desire for quite some time on the part of police agencies to do so. I don't think they saw any reason in reflecting the populations that they served."

That's slowly changing in Edmonton, according to EPS.

In the most recent class of 93 EPS recruits, 28 per cent are women, 17 per cent are part of a visible minority, and eight per cent are Indigenous, police said.

The majority of Edmonton police officers are still white men.

Dynamic between police and minority communities can be 'hostile'

The relationships between police and minority communities could be improved as agencies diversify, Owusu-Bempah said.

"The nature of the relationship between the police and some racialized and Indigenous communities acts as a barrier," he said. "We know that Indigenous populations, black populations are overpoliced, meaning that they're the victims of racial profiling and that they often have a rather hostile or tense relationship with the police."

Those relationships could be improved if communities see themselves reflected in police, Owusu-Bempah said.

Choi said she has seen an increased number of Indigenous Edmontonians showing an interest in joining the force.

"I think if we have those certain people that are committed to applying and wanting to help out the community, it would show a big, positive light towards that," she said.

EPS is looking to recruit 85 new officers in 2018.

Listen to Radio Active with host Portia Clark, weekday afternoons on CBC Radio One, 93.9 FM/740 AM in Edmonton. Follow the show on Twitter: @CBCRadioActive.

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