The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) has been trying to improve the representation of different demographics within its ranks in recent years but many staff at the force still perceive little diversity in the organization and report not feeling included in their workplace, according to the force’s most recent member census.
The results of the census were presented to the policy and governance committee of the Ottawa Police Services board on Wednesday, along with findings from two other studies conducted recently that sought to figure out how police employees feel about their work and the how the public perceives the police force, respectively.
The census – conducted to capture demographic data on the OPS workforce, and perceptions and experiences related to inclusivity – found that less than half (40.4 per cent) of respondents agreed that they “feel included” at the police force.
Forty-eight per cent of respondents, which included both officers and civilian employees at the police service, said they felt they are “treated fairly and with respect.” Meanwhile, less than two-thirds (63 per cent) of respondents said they agreed the OPS is “committed to and supportive of diversity.”
“We recognize there is some work to do,” Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau said. “We have moved forward. We’re having the important discussions but the members need to know that we will be a police service that is well-reflective of the community we serve.”
The staff census was conducted about a year ago, between Nov. 15 and Dec. 21, 2017, by the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion. The report said 1,371 people responded to the survey – a 72.72 per cent response rate.
The results did show a small increase in “overall diversity” at the OPS since the last census conducted in 2012.
The percentages of women and staff who identified as visible minorities and as LBGTQ2 all increased slightly, between 2.5 and four percent. Meanwhile, there was a 10.58 per cent increase in the representation of persons with a disability.
Meanwhile, the percentage of Indigenous employees remained constant over the last five years, at around six per cent, as did the percentage of female police officers, at around 23 per cent.
Perceptions of diversity and feelings of inclusion at the OPS plummeted particularly among respondents who identify as Asian and black, the survey showed. Of those demographics, about a third said they disagreed with the statement that the OPS is “committed to and supportive of diversity.”
But in contrast to these negative perceptions of diversity, the force received a number of open-response comments – 48 out of a total of 184 comments – that called for or related to meritocracy, suggesting a divide in how employees view the police service’s efforts to increase representation.
In the presentation to the board on Wednesday, police executives pledged to “improve equity and inclusion for all members” and to ensure the service’s recruitment is “reflective and relevant to” the communities it serves.
Bordeleau also said the police service’s two deputy chiefs and director general will lead working groups to address the findings and issues identified in the three studies.
Job satisfaction survey
A second “member engagement” study, conducted from Sept. 4 to Sept. 23, found the most common issues and complaints at the OPS relate to opportunities (or lack thereof) for professional growth, police leadership and organizational performance.
The study asked police service employees different questions related to their job satisfaction. The responses revealed complaints of inequality in training opportunities, a “perceived lack of consequence for poor performers” and perceptions of favouritism and double standards among senior police leaders and executives.
In scoring different aspects of the organization, 76 per cent or more felt neutral or unfavourably about the force’s senior officers, executive command, organizational performance and workforce management.
“Confidence in the executive command remains a challenge,” the survey summary said.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, a majority of respondents thought favourably of their immediate supervisors (75 per cent) and the level of teamwork and access to resources (60 per cent).
The study reported a decrease since 2015 – when the last member engagement survey was conducted – in the percentage of respondents who said they are “proud” to tell others they are a member of the OPS. But the total of respondents who feel that way remains a majority, at 61 per cent.
Only a third of respondents said they felt the OPS “inspires me to do my best work” and 41 per cent reported feeling “optimistic about the future of (the) organization” – both small increases from three years ago.
Public trust at ‘a tipping point’
The third survey, a public opinion research study conducted from June 26 to Aug. 24, suggested public trust in the police service is “at a tipping point.”
While a majority of the 3,553 Ottawa residents surveyed said their trust in the force remained the same, the percentage who said their trust had decreased doubled from five per cent in 2015 to 10 per cent in 2018, according to the results.
Seventy-three per cent of those surveyed felt crime has increased in the city of Ottawa over the past three years. That’s in contrast to 51 per cent who said the same in a similar survey conducted in 2015.
Against this backdrop, perceptions of how well the OPS is preventing crime dipped. Respondents also reported lower satisfaction with the OPS’ services overall, particularly regarding the force’s effectiveness in preventing gun violence and dealing with gangs.
The issues respondents said they were most concerned about were road safety, distracted driving, speeding and aggressive driving. There was also a “significant” increase in concerns over gun violence, hate crimes and sexual assault, while concerns over break-ins and robbery declined.
Issues respondents felt should be top priorities for police included crime (generally), reducing gun and gang-related violence, changing the police culture and road safety.
By the numbers: representation of different demographics in the OPS (2017)
- Women: 38.45 per cent
- White: 79.6 per cent
- Racialized: 13.45 per cent
- LGBTQ2: 6.01 per cent
- Indigenous: 5.79 per cent
- Persons with a disability: 15.57 per cent
Source: Ottawa Police Service 2017 Member Census, via Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion