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Canada: RCMP Sets ‘Ambitious’ Recruitment Target - 50% Women
Source: ottawacitizen.com
Source Date: Sunday, October 19, 2014
Focus: ICT for MDGs
Country: Canada
Created: Oct 20, 2014

Beginning next year, the RCMP is aiming for the first time to enroll just as many women as men in its training academy in Regina.

Some observers are skeptical whether there’s enough interest among women to reach the 50 per cent recruitment target — especially when a “masculine culture” still pervades the force.

But officials say they are determined to get the makeup of the force to be more representative of the communities they serve.

“It absolutely is ambitious. But in my position as part of this national police force I think it’s important that we’re a leader in employment equity hiring,” said Sgt. Marlene Bzdel, director of the national recruiting policy centre.

Currently, women represent about 21 per cent of sworn officers. Mounties want to increase that to 30 per cent by 2025.

In recent weeks, the RCMP has been highlighting on its website achievements of women over the past 40 years, such as the first female bomb technician and the first female emergency response team member.

The force — which is looking to send almost 1,000 cadets through the training academy during the 2014-15 fiscal year — is rolling out targeted advertising campaigns, women-only career presentations, assistance in preparing for the RCMP fitness test, and an accelerated application process.

Is it enough?

Karen Adams, a member of the RCMP’s first all-female troop in 1974, is a little skeptical. After a 28-year career as a Mountie, she spent another 11 teaching law enforcement at MacEwan University in Edmonton. “At most,” she said, one-fifth of her students were women.

While the force should be pushing for more diversity, Adams worries about pushing it too far.

“I think there needs to be a push, but not to the point where it’s unnatural — to where society doesn’t want or demand it or where young Canadians say we don’t want to be in that field.”

She also worries that standards for women will be lowered.

The RCMP was unable to say what percentage of its applicants are men versus women. Officials have previously said that the labour market availability of women interested in policing is about 27 per cent.

Officials, however, insist that recruitment standards between women and men are the same and will remain so.

“Our target of 50 per cent women (enrolment in the training academy) is a benchmark and not a quota,” Bzdel said. “Merit is important and the people we hire need to be qualified by our standards.”

The force’s female pioneers faced a lot of hostility from their male counterparts in those early days, Adams recalled. One male instructor walked into the classroom on the first day, slammed the door, and said to the female cadets: “What the f*** are you doing here?”

For a time, Adams was the only female Mountie in northern Manitoba. During one promotion party, a male Mountie grabbed her buttocks. She spun around and told him if he ever did that again, she would kill him.

“In my early postings, I had to depend on myself to deal with those situations by letting them know it wasn’t acceptable.”

Problems persist, according to a proposed class-action lawsuit filed in 2012 by former Const. Janet Merlo. The lawsuit, which now has more than 300 complainants, alleges systemic gender-based discrimination and harassment within the force.

Even if the RCMP is able to attract a lot of new women, there’s still the question of whether they’ll stick around, said Bonnie Reilly Schmidt, a former Mountie who recently completed her PhD dissertation at SFU on the history of women in the RCMP.

“All of them love the work. But they do not like the police culture, which is very masculine. It has been historically and continues to be,” she said.

“Face it. Police work is hard enough. You don’t need to have extra stress and struggles from your peers added on top of the work.”

Her research found that gender-based conflicts within the force can be attributed to different policing styles. Men tend to be more physical and confrontational, whereas women tend to focus on communication.

If there’s a bar fight, male officers would “rather go in and knock heads together,” whereas women look for alternatives, she said.

Historically, men “insisted that women react the same way they did — whether that be in a bar fight, joking in the office, making sexual comments.”

But women had no intention of being like the men. “They wanted to be themselves.”

The RCMP’s recruitment materials now recognize these differences, telling prospective female applicants that “women provide a unique policing perspective” and “contribute to a balanced approach to resolving problems.”

(DOUGLAS QUAN)
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