|Striving for police diversity|
by Danielle Mario
Student researchers at the University of Regina are studying recruitment barriers to aboriginal people entering the police service. Preliminary results show the low rates of aboriginal recruitment may be more related to socio-economic status than to issues of racial or cultural bias, although they all play a role. "We're suggesting that if police started to recruit from the lower [socio-economic status] - forget race and gender - you will get more aboriginal recruits because they tend to be a pool that are located in that demographic," said Dr. Jeff Pfeifer, a professor of psychology and the study leader. The study occurs in a province where the aboriginal population is 14 per cent and expected to reach 50 per cent by 2050. "There's a coming change in demograph- ics province-wide," Pfeifer said. Municipal police services from across Saskatchewan, as well as the RCMP, are try- ing to catch up and provide a force that reflects the demographics. Many are very interested in the findings of the research. "It's assisting us in developing strategies on how we recruit or attract aboriginal candi- dates," said Cpl. Audra Young, a police recruitment strategist for the aboriginal polic- ing services in Regina. "Any research or information that we can add to our strategy and inform us about bet- ter ways to attract candidates to policing in general is an asset to us." Young was at the U of R on Feb. 26 as part of the Saskatchewan Police Aboriginal Recruitment Committee (SPARC). It included representatives from the RCMP, municipal police forces from across Saskatchewan, and the File Hill First Nations Police Service, the only all-aboriginal police force in Saskatchewan. Const. Michael McLean, an aboriginal liaison officer from Saskatoon was also involved at the recruitment event, and was not surprised when he was informed of the study's early results. "I think that the seed is planted at an early age in certain children that they are expected to fail because of their situations," said McLean. "When you're coming from a community where everyone fails and 85 per cent are unemployed ... I think it's a natural progres- sion." McLean sees such strategies as SPARC as being a positive asset to aboriginal recruit- ment in Saskatchewan and part of his person- al mission. McLean was encouraged by his uncle to enter into policing at a young age and considers him the driving force for his entering into the career. "To me, if I could give something back, it would be to be a leader. My uncle was my leader, and if I could save two or three kids - even 60 kids - that would be great." The final results of the U of R study will not be available until April.