Chapter 2: HRM, Society and The Law

Human Resource Management Day-to-Day

The Black Lives Matter movement and the call for a ‘new’ police

In the Spring of 2020, while the pandemic raged on, people from around the world rallied around a common cause: Black Lives Matter. This social movement has focused on a quest for liberty, justice, and freedom for African-Americans, and more specifically, the need to address police brutality against minorities. Without a doubt, this issue is especially acute in the US, where the use of force by police has reached alarming rates.

However, in Canada, the situation is also concerning as evidenced by these graphs (links to original article):

Diagram showing victims by major police forces. Diagram links to original article. Diagram showing disproportionate victims vs. percentage of population. Diagram links to original article.

The situation in Canada is different than that of the US, as two groups are overwhelmingly over-represented in deadly encounters with the police: blacks and Indigenous people. In Winnipeg, for example, indigenous people represent an average of 10.6 percent of the population, but account for nearly two thirds (over 60%) of deadly encounters with the police. These statistics are troublesome and elected officials are being asked to find solutions. To do so, governments, police forces, and scientists have started to look at the problem in more depth. One of their conclusions, is that as an organization, the police has not kept up with the evolution of the role of its members. For example, as a result of budget cuts to long-term psychiatric care, improvements in treatment, and the philosophy of integration, an increasing number of people with a mental illness live in the community. As a result, police officers are becoming, by default, the informal ‘first responders’ of our mental health system. A comprehensive database assembled by the CBC shows that 70 percent of the people who died at the hands of police struggled with mental health issues or substance abuse, or a combination of both. On a day-to-day basis, police officers are much more likely to have to calm down a homeless schizophrenic individual screaming in the middle of St Catherine Street, than to go on a high speed chase with bank robbers. The need to fill these very different roles puts enormous pressure on police officers: it is important to remember that it is the profession with the highest level of suicide. All of this evidence points to a serious issue and begs the question: How to transform the police force to help it fulfill its new role in society? While the answer to this question is very complex, two HRM processes have been at the center of possible solutions.

Recruitment and Selection:

It makes sense that, as the job evolves, the competencies required by police officers also need to evolve. This evolution can be summarized by a shift from physical attributes to psychological ones. For one, emotional intelligence and the capacity to de-escalate situations is key, more so than physical strength. More and more, interviews and selection tests for police officers focus on abilities such as communication, problem-solving and cooperation. Secondly, an emphasis is put on hiring officers who ‘understand’ the population they serve.  In the US, research has shown that white officers dispatched to Black neighbourhoods fired their guns five times as often as Black officers dispatched for similar calls to the same neighbourhoods (see graph).


Answering the Call: Researchers looked at responses to 1.2 million 911 emergency calls in a US city and plotted the use of force involving a gun across neighbourhoods according to their racial composition. White officers were more likely to use a gun than were black officers and more likely to do so in predominantly black neighbourhoods.
Hoekstra, M. & Sloan, C. W. National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 26774 (2020).
The impetus is then on efforts to diversify the force by recruiting officers from every community, and also hiring officers with non-traditional backgrounds (i.e., with psychology, sociology, or social work degrees).  The Montreal Police force has been trying to diversify its ranks, with limited success: approximately 33% of people living in the City of Montreal identify as a visible minority, yet just 7.7 percent of Montreal police officers are visible minorities.


Training has always been a very important HRM process for police organizations. Increasingly, this training has focused on the competencies listed above (i.e., communication, problem-solving and cooperation). An example of a very interesting initiative can be found on the south shore of Montreal, in the Longueuil police department. Led by an innovative police chief, the police force is piloting a program in which officers spend time in the community to bridge the gap between police and the people they serve.

Click on the link below to watch a short video about this program.

New immersive training program by Longueuil police deemed a success

Source: New immersive training program by Longueuil police deemed a success – Montreal |

Leaving the gun and uniform at home, officers have the chance to bond and interact with different cultures, community groups and families in their jurisdictions. The objective of the police chief is to cut in half the number of his police officers who respond to calls and replace them by officers who would be assigned to a specific neighbourhood. These officers would always be the same, in order for them to establish relationships with people. “Instead of always being a police of reaction, I want my officers to be a police of prevention”, says the chief.




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Human Resources Management - 2nd Ontario Edition Copyright © 2022 by Elizabeth Cameron is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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