Ottawa police census shows divide over diversity

Police Services Meeting

A 2017 census report for the Ottawa Police Service reveals there is a divide among the force when it comes to diversification within it's ranks.

OPS has been trying to improve the representation of minorities within the force in recent years, but a perception of reverse discrimination has too been emerging.

The census is conducted to study the demographic data on the OPS workforce and perceptions as well as experiences of diversity and inclusion. The Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion conducted the study between Nov. 15 and Dec. 21 of last year. The report said 1,371 officers and staff responded to the survey, which translates to a 72.72 per cent response rate.

The overall results show a small increase in diversity but Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau says more needs to be done.

"We want to make sure everyone in the police force regardless of race, religion, sex, has access to opportunities."

According to the survey, many white members of the force are concerned efforts to diversify the force are interfering with merit-based promotions, and it's costing them jobs.

"When you talk about diversion and inclusion, it's always a topic that generates a lot of discussion," said Bordeleau.

"One of the top three objectives over the next business plan is to focus on diversity and inclusions and ensuring our promotions and transfers policy are fair and transparent."

A section for open-ended comments in which staff could voice their concerns within the force points to several comments expressing frustration.

"OPS employees recognize and embrace diversity; however, the attitude of forcing diversity on us by changing transfer and promotion policy is highly counter-productive," one respondent said.

"OPS has created a terrible environment for the people that want to give it their all, but don't fit into the accommodates spectrum," another respondent wrote. "It is absolutely shameful."

But advocates for racialized groups say that just isn't true.

"Reverse discrimination is an invention," said Cesar Ndema-Moussa of the Ottawa Police Community Equity Council, the committee created to address the relationship between police and racialized groups within the community.

"It doesn't exist in the reality of the world we live in and notable in Ottawa."

Ketcia Peters of the Ketcia Peters Group is a community activist in Ottawa. She also sits on the Ottawa Police Community Equity Council and says there has been some growing pains within the force.

"It's very dangerous if we do not address it," said Peters.

"Were trying to remove the barriers to give opportunities to groups that in the past were always excluded."

Ottawa Councillor Eli El-Chantiry is the head of the police board.

"We want to make sure every member matters, no matter the colour of their skin" said El-Chantiry.

He says the key is open dialogue.

"If we don't acknowledge it, we don't understand it, how are we going to move forward?"

El-Chantiry says Chief Bordeleau was assigned a direction Monday, which would tie the results from reports into the performance and evaluation of the police chief and deputy chiefs.