Edmonton police recruiting more officers from diverse life experiences
More than 60 per cent of hired recruits were from diverse backgrounds for 2020-22
Efforts by Edmonton police to become a more diverse and inclusive service may be starting to pay off.
Over the past three years, more than 60 per cent of new recruits identified as Indigenous, people of colour or gender or sexually diverse — a total of 159 hires:
- 2020: 40 of 64 recruits.
- 2021: 55 of 91 recruits.
- 2022: 64 of 106 recruits.
Of the hires from last year, 7.6 per cent were Indigenous and 49 per cent were people of colour.
The first class of 2023 held a graduation ceremony Friday at city hall. Edmonton's 28 newest constables hail from nine countries and speak 14 different languages — one recruit speaks six — while most also have post-secondary education, including a former teacher and a former nurse.
Congo-born Const. Ronald Agealea Nyikabe, 35, grew up in Edmonton, where he runs his own construction company and volunteers. But something else was calling.
"I felt like this was a good avenue to do more with the youth in my community," Nyikabe told reporters Friday before the ceremony.
"I also wanted to be a positive role model."
As a youth, Nyikabe recalled feeling fearful encountering police. That changed when a high school resource officer of South Asian background became his role model.
"I didn't want that same feeling to be something that my kids go through and a lot of the youth I work with in the community. Same thing — I don't want them to be afraid of somebody who's wearing a badge," Nyikabe said.
"I figured instead of just talking about it … why not be somebody who they can look at, somebody that they don't have to fear, somebody that they can say, 'You know what, if he can do it, I can do it too.'"
Diversity within the Edmonton Police Service has come a long way since recruiter and Staff Sgt. Leanne Kilb joined 20 years ago.
"When I started we were lucky to have one female in each squad," Kilb said.
The service, which totalled 1,968 members as of 2021, now has more than 410 female police officers.
Kilb said police have more recently ramped up efforts to attract and retain officers with a range of backgrounds, life experiences and perspectives.
"We've done a ton of work and we still have a ton of work that we can do," Kilb said. "But representing those communities is huge for us and really getting their feedback on how we can do better."
'Bring who you are'
Strategies to recruit from more diverse backgrounds are detailed in the police service's Commitment to Action plan and the 2023-26 Strategic plan, which lists one of its five goals as growing and supporting diverse talent.
Late last year, EPS rebranded its recruitment messaging as "a service that serves all" that is hiring "community-minded leaders."
"Bring who you are," the website reads.
Specific recruitment programs include working out with recruiters so aspiring candidates can make connections and ask questions.
There is also a mentoring academy that supports applicants and a unit dedicated to equity, inclusion and human rights that reduces barriers to being hired.
EPS has also changed the promotion process by ensuring members of underrepresented communities are included in interview panels.
University of Alberta criminology professor Temitope Oriola said focus on retaining those officers is key.
"A lot depends on the atmosphere within the Edmonton Police Service," Oriola said in an interview Friday.
"Whether we retain these individuals for the medium to long term and how they function as officers on our streets. Do they serve as agents of change?"
For Nyikabe, he's ready to serve with a future goal to follow in his role model and work as a resource officer with Edmonton youth.
With files from Travis McEwan