Kingston Police look for new faces to better represent the community

Photo via Kingston Police.

Kingston Police are actively recruiting, and want everyone to know that they could be a welcome addition to the force.

At the meeting of the Kingston Police Services Board (KPSB) on Thursday, Jun. 20, 2024, Councillor Jimmy Hassan moved a motion on “Diversity & Recruitment,”  which was seconded by Chair Jarrod Stearns, then passed unanimously.

One of Kingston Police’s prioritized objectives in their 2023-2026 Strategic Plan is that recruitment initiative must seek to better represent the community’s diversity. Hassan’s motion noted that increased diversity within the police service can lead to improved community relations and trust, broadens the service’s perspectives and approaches, and enhances problem-solving and decision-making. He concluded that the Kingston Police must represent the community’s diverse demographics.

Recognizing these three points, the now-passed motion will see the KPSB commit to promoting diversity within the police force through targeted recruitment, hiring, and retention strategies. This will include their own promotion for recruitment at community events, as well as maintenance and establishment of partnerships with local community organizations who can also assist with improving diverse representation in recruitment. Kingston Police are now committed to creating a system for regularly monitoring diversity within the force and reporting progress concerning recruitment to the Board annually.

Kingston City Councillor Hassan at the KPSB meeting on Thursday, Jun. 20, 2024. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

Hassan expanded on this, saying that the motion’s purpose is to “start taking concrete steps” toward a commitment to diversity, rather than leaving it as an abstracted goal on paper only.

He noted that diverse recruitment and hiring is a crucial need here in Kingston, but that it is by no means unique to this community.

“It is an international issue, and international communities have been talking about it for many decades now,” Hassan said. “I want to bring the discussion [here], because our Kingston Police Department has been doing lots of efforts with the public – I recognize that – but we want to be a leader in our province and also in our country to take the [next] concrete steps.”

The motion, he asserted, will provide a framework to structure those next steps.

“Kingston is, often I have said, the fastest-growing multicultural city… So we have to change our priorities. We have to change our steps to welcome everyone, give a chance to everyone, and to make them feel [that] they will have a fair chance [if they apply to work with Kingston Police],” he expressed.

With Kingston Police and City Council’s leadership, Hassan said he hopes the city will grow more multicultural, noting, “We will try to provide future opportunities to everyone competent, who wants to come forward to serve the city, the community, and the country.” 

Chief of Police Scott Fraser responded, saying, “I think from an organizational perspective, obviously with the new act, there’s diversity planning [all police forces] have to undertake,” and noting that Hassan’s motion had come at a perfect time.

“I can provide some stats. It is all in our annual report, but just for example, male to female recruits: in 2023 at the Ontario Police College, out of 1,547 recruits over the year, 79.9 per cent were male and 20.4 per cent female,” said Fraser.

“Locally, as of last year, Kingston Police were… 81 per cent male and 19 female. So, very similar to what the police college is. But then, when we go into visible minorities, [among] recruits that went through last year, 28.9 per cent [were visible minorities], whereas in Kingston… four per cent of our staff were visible minorities. Indigenous people at the Ontario Police College [represented] five per cent [of students], and [yet] in Kingston Police, we’re sitting at one per cent.”

He did praise the fact that there are a very diverse number of languages spoken by Kingston Police members.

“Unless you read it on paper, you don’t know that we have people here who are Serbian and speak Serbian. Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, German, Hindi, American Sign Language, Greek, Polish, and Gujarati — we have a number of different languages that people speak, but it’s important. If you were driving by and saw that officer, you would not [necessarily assume that diversity],” he shared.

Chief Scott Fraser speaks animatedly about recruitment efforts. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

Fraser reiterated that diversity goes beyond skin colour: “There’s a lot more to it… We need to broaden our horizon to look at it all, and I think it’s excellent.”

He gave examples of recruiting they had been doing recently, “such as our Cell Monitor program, where we’re trying to introduce people to our organization where they may not apply directly to policing. We have several applicants from diverse backgrounds who are applying [to be a cell monitor]. Then once their foot’s in the door, they’re now working in the police service, and they get an opportunity to see it and then they become an internal candidate, as well.” 

Fraser emphasized that in the past, “we have not really done a great job at recruiting. People applied, and we sat back, and they came to us.” Now, however, he stated that the best practice was to go out and actively recruit: “A couple of our staff are very good at it. They go to the events our community is hosting, [and events in] other communities. You know, if you go to Toronto, you’ll see people from Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton in Toronto also recruiting.”

But he stressed, “It’s also good to capitalize locally when we can, because when people [already] live here, it’s a lot easier for them. Relocating is a possibility. But if we [recruit] in our community, it’s always the best.”

The chief detailed another effort to get young people involved.

“Staff Sergeant Carla Stacey hosts a tutoring program here every week, and it’s really expanding through our schools. We actually have a few [attendees] that are interested in policing. [The program focuses on] working on English, and speaking in English, and interacting, and a number of cultures are represented,” he detailed.

Fraser also highlighted an idea that Constable Lisa Decaire had brought to him: the reinvigoration of a Citizens’ Police Academy, which would demonstrate what policing is all about and give participants a chance to experience it.

“Because the Citizens’ Police Academy is generally opening our doors to show people, ‘Here’s what we’re doing,’” he said before offering up an idea that could allow for recruitment efforts as part of that process: “What about, from an HR perspective, [we] invite people who we want to apply to work for us, and we offer them a six or eight week program?”

“So,” Fraser concluded, “Now’s the time to have the framework… so everybody understands what we’re doing, and it’s not just checking the box, and not just words on a page. I think the organization is in pretty good hands, but we can always be better.”

The Kingston Police Services Board holds its regular meeting on the third Thursday of each month, beginning at 12 noon in the William Hackett Boardroom at Kingston Police Headquarters, 705 Division Street.

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