Saint John’s police chief says the force’s diversity numbers are not ‘consistent’ with the city’s demographics, and they’re working to close the gap.Andrew Bates, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Saint John’s police chief says a diversity and inclusion recruiting initiative is part of efforts to make the force more reflective of the city’s demographics.

The Inclusivity and Diversity Recruitment Camp runs May 23 at the Saint John Police Force’s Peel Plaza headquarters, according to a press release Wednesday. The full-day program aims to bring in potential recruits from underrepresented communities, including women and visible minorities, and give them an idea of what life as a police officer looks like, according to Chief Robert Bruce.

“We’re looking for people … that are looking to find out what policing is all about and how they can serve their community,” Bruce told Brunswick News.

At the Tuesday meeting of the Saint John Board of Police Commissioners, Bruce said the demographics in the province and city “are ever changing, and the expectations from our community for service continue to be higher.”

Bruce cited 2016 census data for Saint John, which indicated the city had a 47.5/52.5 per cent male-female split, with 6.7 per cent of residents identifying as a visible minority.

“Our numbers are not consistent with that,” Bruce said.

Internal statistics showed that 62 per cent of the Saint John Police Force’s 188 employees identified as male and 38 per cent female, Bruce told the meeting, with an 80/20 per cent male-female split among uniformed officers and a 7/93 per cent male-female split among civilian staff. Two per cent of the organization identified as visible minorities, he said.

Board member Charles Bryant noted that the visible minority stat from the 2016 census is “probably low,” which Bruce agreed.

“That’s just a launching point for the discussion, right? Because we aren’t even close to matching those numbers,” Bryant asked.

2021 census numbers show that 10.6 per cent of Saint Johners identified as being a visible minority, with a 48.4/51.6 male-female split. Statistics Canada aggregates non-binary people into two-gender categories for confidentiality reasons, according to a 2021 census note.

“I think police agencies across the country face the same thing,” Bruce replied. “Historically, we have waited for people to knock on our door, and in Saint John in the last three years …. we’re knocking on doors and we’re getting really special candidates from our city.”

Bruce told Brunswick News that one out of three officers in the last recruiting class identified as a visible minority, and two out of five in the previous class.

“We’re working towards that, but the struggle is getting people interested in policing,” Bruce said.

The Saint John Police Force recruits through sponsorship, where potential officers apply to the force and, after a recruiting process, are sponsored to the Atlantic Police Academy, Bruce said. They can return to the city for on-the-job development and are guaranteed a job on graduation, according to Bruce.

“Our recruiting doors are never closed,” Bruce said, adding that there’s a recruiting session Feb. 27 at 5 p.m. at the station.

“It gives you an opportunity to represent your community,” Bruce said. “If you’re in one of those groups, you can bring a better understanding to policing.”

He mentioned the force’s Deputy Chief Honey Dwyer, who was present for the interview, saying she brings added perspectives through her experience as an aboriginal person and as a woman.

“Everything she’s gone through has enriched the department. I wouldn’t be able to bring that,” he said.

When asked what the force could do to make itself a more welcoming place for people of underrepresented communities to work, Bruce said that hiring people from those communities “makes your organization stronger.”

When it comes to public perception, Bruce said that greater representation also goes to a “trust issue” with people of underrepresented communities.

“When we serve the public, people want to see someone that looks like them serving them,” he said.

The Inclusivity and Diversity Recruitment Camp starts at 8 a.m. and runs to 5 p.m. on May 23, and includes a chance to interact with officers, learn about the roles in the force and gain “hands-on experience,” according to the release.

More information is available at https://saintjohnpolice.ca/community/community-engagement/inclusion-and-diversity-recruitment-camp/.

By Andrew Bates, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Feb 19, 2024 at 14:43

This item reprinted with permission from   Telegraph-Journal   Saint John, New Brunswick
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