Ottawa police board says diversity division will be fixed

Ottawa police will continue to promote diversity after a report showed some officers are concerned it is leading to less-qualified candidates being promoted.

Chair says reflecting city is a priority

A survey of Ottawa police showed several members were worried about the effect of diversity policies on the quality of candidates getting promotions. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Ottawa police will continue to promote diversity after a report showed some officers are concerned it is leading to less-qualified candidates being promoted.​

Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, the chair of the board, said it is important for police leadership to have a conversation with members, but the goal is to reflect the diversity of the city.

"[The city is] changing and Ottawa police need to change to reflect the community we serve, and that's a good thing," El-Chantiry said.

"The police officers need to be heard and the management needs to be respected. We need to work together."

The board received a report by the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion based on an anonymous survey of police staff.

It notes that while there's been an increase in visible minorities joining the force since 2012, there is also a growing perception of discrimination in favour of diversity among employees, who are overwhelmingly white.

Of 184 comments collected on the topic, 84 dealt with the concern shared by many white officers that outside pressures were interfering with merit-based promotions.

The 2017 census found 13 per cent of police service staff are visible minorities.

It's a four per cent increase in just five years, but still comparatively low for a workforce in Ontario and much lower than the general population.

About six per cent of the service is Indigenous.

In all, 1,381 OPS employees — 72 per cent of the workforce — participated in the census.

The report was completed in April 2018 by the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion. The data reveals significant push back from white, male officers about the force's attempts to hire and promote more women and people of colour. (Judy Trinh/ CBC News)

Board member Suzanne Valiquet requested the police executive create "snapshots" to describe how law enforcement needs have changed over the past decades and how that's influenced who might be a police officer.

"Perhaps through that exercise, we can look at realizing how important it is that we have more women, that we become a more diverse service," Valiquet said.

Chief Charles Bordeleau said some things have changed since the time when a professional football player was seen as the ideal recruit.

"Where policing has really evolved is in the complexity of crime and also all the social disorder and quality of life issues that our officers are having to face on a daily basis," he said in the meeting.

Chief Charles Bordeleau said the survey of police members showed a wide diversity of opinions that will help the executive tackle the issue of making the service more reflective of the city's population. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Bordeleau has described the report's findings as an example of expected "growing pains" as the service moves to reflect the city. 

"There is a wide diversity of opinions, we know what they are and [it] helps us tackle those issues head-on," Bordeleau said.

"We want to make sure all our members have access to those equal opportunities."