News / Ottawa

Ottawa Police moving to correct gender imbalance

New measures aimed at making force more equitable

Emma Jackson / Metro

The Ottawa Police Service is investing $75,000 in a training program, and have implemented new promotion and transfer policies to improve gender diversity on the force. 

In a report released this week, which will go before the police board’s human resources committee Friday, staff outline three new policies that are aimed at producing more equitable outcomes. 

“We’ve moved ourselves in the right direction,” said deputy chief Steve Bell. “We still have work to do, no doubt, but we’re trending in the right direction.” 

OPS has implemented new policies around promotions and around transfers, mostly attempt to make the interviewing and review process as gender-neutral as possible, with gender neutrality on panels, unbiased review of questions and scoring, and voluntary self-identification. 

Bell said that they had implemented the promotions policy in their last two promotions processes, and have heard positive feedback and saw more women involved.

Police are also spending $75,000 on a training program, to begin in 2018. That training will be given to all police officers, with more intensive instruction given to senior officers. It will involve three components, which focus on identifying bias, challenging assumptions about gender, and familiarizing officers with gender balance policies. 

But the report notes that there is still lots of work ahead. “It’s early days yet and many OPS employees—men and women alike—remain skeptical,” the report reads, “both about whether the policies will make a difference and, if so, what they will mean for their careers.” 

The audit itself, and the spectre of major changes, seems to have gotten the backs of male officers up. “Many male officers are concerned that their careers will now be stalled as the OPS looks to right the gender balance,” the report reads.

85 per cent of employees describe the culture in OPS, as it relates to gender, in negative terms. 

“Change is tough in any organization,” said Bell. “Especially one that has 300 years of tradition.” 

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