May 10, 2019 9:32 am

Study encourages Peterborough Police Service to adapt to reflect city’s diverse population

WATCH: Peterborough's new police chief wants to see the service become more diverse as the city's demographics change.

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A diversity study conducted by two Trent University students is encouraging the Peterborough Police Service (PPS) to adapt in order to reflect the city’s changing demographics.

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The study, conducted by fourth-year students Samantha Groulx and Raquel Maset, is titled Comparative Analysis of Peterborough Police Service Relative to the Service Area and aims to identify gaps between the demographics of the Peterborough population and the city’s police service.

Peterborough police Chief Scott Gilbert proposed the project last September, and the findings were presented during this week’s Peterborough Police Services Board meeting.

“I think we do need to be more diverse,” Gilbert told Global Peterborough on Thursday.

READ MORE: Questions of diversity raised as Halifax appoints new police chief

The study included a voluntary, anonymous survey, which 122 of the 208 PPS members completed. The force has 140 sworn officers ranked as constables or higher.

According to the study, 96 per cent of the staff surveyed identify as white, while Statistics Canada reports that 93.9 per cent of Peterborough’s population (82,000 in 2018) is white.

More than 50 per cent of the Peterborough population is female, according to Statistics Canada, however the study said only 33.3 per cent of survey participants are women while 62.5 per cent are men. One Peterborough police officer identifies as a transgender woman, and another officer identifies as gender-nonconforming.

Gilbert noted that recruiting women for uniformed roles is “always a challenge.”

“Right now, 21 per cent of our constables — the sworn members — are women,” he said. “That level of 20 to 21 per cent is consistent across the province. All the police services are doing their best to recruit women so they can be reflective of gender diversity in the communities, but it’s very hard to get at that 50 per cent number. There’s no easy and fast answer.”

Forty per cent of PPS employees were between the ages of 35 and 44, which is comparable to the City of Peterborough’s population, according to the study.

The report also noted that the police service has four languages represented on the force while the larger Peterborough community speaks 29 languages.

Gilbert said the force has access to interpreters, works closely with the New Canadians Centre for translation issues and uses the Google Translate app.

“The app can assist (officers) in a pinch when they deal with somebody who speaks a different language — it’s not perfect but it certainly gives officers an opportunity to communicate with someone in the language of their choice,” he said.

The report said education levels were nearly equal when it came to the force and the larger community, however police officers were more likely to have a spouse: 66 per cent of the force is married compared to 40 per cent of city residents.

READ MORE: Canadians love diversity, just not the change that comes with it: survey

Just over 80 per cent of survey participants reported completing diversity and inclusion training, while 18 per cent said they did not.

“Recognizing diversity as a strength should be fluid and continuously upheld in all operations,” the study states. “As Peterborough grows as a community, it is necessary that the trainings follow a similar route and remain updated to ensure the most effective training possible.”

Gilbert agrees and says the force is reviewing any training gaps and notes that 86 employees did not participate in the survey.

“The number should be 100 per cent — every member of this service should have diversity training,” he said.

“It shows there is a gap both in our training but also in our records, and our delivery of that training to new members of the service could be where the fault lies. We may have some new hires we haven’t delivered the training (to) so we are looking at that.”

Gilbert continued: “Diversity training is not a one-time thing, it’s an ongoing thing. It’s interwoven into a lot of our training.”

The study also notes that international post-secondary students significantly impact the diversity of Peterborough’s population. Together, Trent University and Fleming College host more than 1,300 international students from 100 countries.

“We have a very diverse and vibrant community that attends school at Trent and Fleming, and they’re not part of the census data,” Gilbert noted. “They don’t get counted, although they’re a part of it, and as a result, those are areas we don’t represent or reflect.”

The study noted that immigration in Peterborough is expected to “slowly but steadily increase” over the coming years.

“It is crucial that PPS remains up to date with these changes as it is essential that all community members have confidence in their service,” the study concluded.

Coun. Stephen Wright says he applauds the chief’s efforts in the study.

“When you look at Fleming and Trent, the international student numbers for them, to have that truly lived experience in Peterborough, the police service also has to reflect the people on the whole who are served by it,” Wright said.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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