Police Force Recruits Diverse Talent to Better Reflect Communities

In 2003, the Ottawa Police Service launched an Outreach Recruitment Program so the police force would reflect the more than sixty cultural communities it served. The program, led by Staff Sergeant Sylvio Gravel, was designed to ensure the recruitment process was open to all cultures, and that promising candidates received ESL training when necessary.

Input From Communities Removes Barriers

As part of the program, the Ottawa Police asked community representatives, along with their own employees, to help open up the recruiting process to all communities. Over a three month period, community representatives, under an oath of secrecy, reviewed recruiting questions and scoring for potential barriers to immigrants. As a result the Ottawa Police revised its recruitment, testing and training practices.

Marketing strategies for attracting potential recruits were revamped to reduce the emphasis on job requirements, and stress that police officers are part of the community first and police officers second. Interviewers were also trained to eliminate bias from the interview and background check process. For example, if the Ottawa Police has difficulty verifying foreign credentials, they direct candidates to the Ontario Ministry of Education and Training. They then follow up with the candidate via phone or email to track their progress on obtaining equivalency.

Free ESL Course for Promising Candidates

The Ottawa Police equips new immigrants with the English skills they need through a partnership forged in 2004 with Graybridge Malkam, an intercultural training and consulting service organization. Promising candidates receive a free ESL course tailored to the needs of police services.

Candidates are encouraged to take the course while also preparing for other testing components, such as the aptitude test, the written communication test and psychological testing. Since 2004, half the course graduates have applied to the Ottawa Police Service and the Ontario Provincial Police, and many others are preparing to join the Ottawa Police.

The Ottawa Police Service has noticed a significant impact of the Outreach Recruitment Program. “When we hired two Somali officers – a community with no representation on the Service- a great deal of trust was built. This is a great start,” says Staff Sergeant Gravel.

Tips for Employers:

  • Involve members of the community and current skilled immigrant employees in a review of recruiting questions and scoring to identify potential barriers to immigrants. Then revise recruitment, testing and training practices accordingly.
  • If there’s difficulty verifying foreign credentials, direct candidates to an appropriate qualifications assessment service. Then follow up with the candidates to track their progress on obtaining equivalency.

Since its creation in 1995, the Ottawa Police Service has dedicated itself to excellence, deploying 1,650 officers and civilians to respond to an average 231,000 calls each year. Six divisions also work with residents to solve community problems and create a safer community.


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