Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Canadian police chief of Armenian origin Matt Torigian - champion of diversity

FYI: police in Armenia

*via The Record

WATERLOO REGION — Matt Torigian can easily recall his early days on the Waterloo Regional Police Service.

*picture - Waterloo Regional Police Chief Matt Torigian, right, congratulates Ian Ford during a badge ceremony held at the A.R. Kaufman Family Y. (Philip Walker/Record staff)

It was 1985 and the then police constable was working his second shift with the police service.

A supervisor approached and, knowing that Torigian is of Armenian descent, said: “Your father must be in the jewelry or carpet business.”

The comment wasn’t mean-spirited, and Torigian says he wasn’t offended.

“I was just pleased and proud that he knew about Armenia,” said Torigian, who now heads the service as chief of police.

“I was never, ever treated any differently.”

Torigian recalled that conversation recently during an interview on diversity within the police service. The service’s top cop says it’s his “passion” to see that officers who police our region are representative of everyone. [...]

For years, the Waterloo Regional Police Service has been stepping up its recruitment effort to encourage everyone — regardless of their colour, sexuality, age and experience — to apply. The service formed its own internal diversity committee.

Still, Torigian admits, more work needs to be done.

“We’re not there yet. We don’t ever stop striving to get there. What would really be important is to be in a place where our recruiters are seeing diversity coming through the door.”

There are currently 730 sworn officers on staff — 586 men and 144 women. No study has been done that breaks down ethnic backgrounds within the service.

Most recently, officers received praise from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community after setting up a booth at the Tri-Pride Festival in Victoria Park and at Toronto’s Pride weekend.

Two openly gay officers shared their experiences with festival goers.

In 2004, Torigian sat on a provincial diversity committee and remembers members of the gay community saying they had to “degay” their home if they were the victim of a break-in. They were fearful the police wouldn’t properly investigate the crime if they knew they were gay, Torigian said.

“This is the mindset that existed and probably still does to some extent,” the police chief said.

“The last thing we want is for someone who would love to be a cop but feels they are not the right fit because they are gay. That absolutely cannot happen.”

Deb Gollnick, co-chair of Tri-Pride, said she is encouraged by the police initiative to attract members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

“I think a lot of organizations in the community are starting to get us on their radar,” she said. “It’s par for the course that a big organization like the Waterloo Regional Police Service is doing that.”

Gollnick said officers even came to one of her board meetings to express interest. [...]

In the past, recruitment officers have also attended gatherings for the Association of Black Law Enforcers (A.B.L.E.), the Caribbean Canadian Association of Waterloo Region, the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Festival and the local Turkish festival. [...]

“We want to have officers who reflect the diversity of the city,” said Toronto Police Const. Tom Decker, the service’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender liaison officer.

“It helps us understand the concerns the community is facing. And it helps the community relate to the police a little better. Some communities are still afraid of interacting with police and having these liaison officers really helps dispel these fears.”


Anonymous said...

Mika jan, I’m sorry to say but I’m a little bit skeptical — not of Torigian personally, but of the whole institutionalization of diversity, particularly in the police force.

And how diverse is the Waterloo Regional Police Service (or how much are they “stepping up its recruitment effort”) if less than 20% of the sworn police officers are women? I think there’s more work to be done at least on the issue of gender disparity if nothing else.

I have to say as a queer Armenian woman from Toronto, I still would feel the need to “degay” my home (and possibly myself ;) if police officers had to enter.

artmika said...

You will know better re realities, but what is important for me from this report is that they work towards diversity, and actively engage with the minorities.