Montreal police efforts to diversify force fall flat, despite outreach

Encouraging minorities to take up the badge in Montreal is made difficult by the overall lack of recruits interested in joining the force, according to Insp. André Durocher, communications chief for the SPVM.

One in 3 Montrealers identify as visible minorities, but just 7.7% of police officers are non-white

As part of the SPVM's effort to diversify its police force, ambassadors are sent into high schools and CEGEPs to meet students. (SPVM)

One in three people living in the City of Montreal identifies as a visible minority, yet after two decades of outreach work, just 7.7 per cent of Montreal police officers are anything other than Caucasian.

That statistic, published in the Montreal police service (SPVM) annual report released this week, is a marginal increase over 2016, when the figure was 7.4 per cent. In 2015, it hovered at around 7 per cent.

"We are doing serious efforts that we're sure will bear some fruit in a couple years," Insp. André Durocher told CBC Montreal's Daybreak Wednesday.

Those efforts to improve representation from all ethnic groups include sending ambassadors who represent "various minorities" into high schools and CEGEPs to meet students and promote the profession, said Durocher. However, diversifying the force is "not something you can do overnight," he said.

"It is always the result of a long-term effort."

Changing young people's perception of policing

Encouraging minorities to take up the badge in Montreal is made more challenging by the general lack of interest among young people of any ethnic background in joining the city's police service, Durocher said.

There is a widely shared, negative perception of law enforcement work, he said, and changing that isn't easy.

"It takes a long time, and it takes a lot of education."

The police service has been successful in its efforts over the past 20 years to recruit more female officers, who now make up a third of the force, Durocher said.

Yet similar efforts over the same time period to attract more Indigenous people or other minorities have yielded few results.

Twenty years after a push to hire more female police officers, one in three SPVM officers are now women, SPVM Insp. André Durocher says. But a similar effort to better reflect Montreal's ethnic diversity in the force has yielded few results. (Stéphane Grégoire /Radio-Canada)

Since the late 1990s, the SPVM has offered Indigenous people and visible and ethnic minorities an alternative route to becoming an officer.

Instead of spending two years in police technology training, candidates with an undergraduate degree or the equivalent can do their training in seven months.

All recruits must then attend the École nationale de police du Québec in Nicolet.

Despite that initiative, only one new officer from a First Nations background has been hired in the past two years. In 2017, 284 male officers identified as a visible minority. In 2018, that number was 287.

The breakdown

According to the 2018 report, there are a total of 4,557 members of the Montreal police service, including higher-ranking officers and permanent auxiliary constables. 

That number includes:

  • 24 First Nations people.
  • 140 ethnic minorities.
  • 351 visible minorities.
  • 1,505 women.

Among 1,184 higher-ranking officers, there are:

  • 3 First Nations people.
  • 32 ethnic minorities.
  • 49 visible minorities.
  • 834 men.
  • 350 women.

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak


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