The chief of the Peel Regional Police Service described an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruling that an officer was denied a promotion because of his race as “very concerning” — and said the force has since adopted different advancement criteria.
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario found Friday not only that Staff Sgt. Baljiwan Sandhu had been denied a promotion to inspector based on his race and cultural background — but that Peel Regional Police didn’t consider the portion of the 28-year veteran’s work in diversity relations as “real police work.”
Chief Jennifer Evans did not respond to CBC’s questions about the ruling.
Instead, she issued a video statement Tuesday in which she said that such ambassador roles are critical to the success of Peel police.
“It’s important to note that since 2013, Peel Regional Police have introduced changes to our promotional process,” the chief said in the video. “The enhancements ensure all officers are recognized for the area they work in, be they front line or support services.”
Not ‘real police work’
While Sandhu’s lawyer said his client was harassed since he was a cadet in 1989 — including an alleged incident in which fellow officers asked whether anyone ordered a cab when they saw Sandhu — it was the fact that his superiors didn’t value the work they’d assigned him that prompted the complaint in 2013, Barry Swadron said.
Sandhu emigrated to Canada from India in 1981; he speaks fluent English, Punjabi, Urdu and Hindi.
The tribunal found that the officer’s cultural and linguistic background resulted in his superiors routinely seconding him for assignments involving the South Asian community.
And yet while those skills were considered an asset for those portfolios, his superiors said he needed more “traditional” front line policing experience to become an inspector, according to evidence submitted to the tribunal.
‘What he wants is the police chief and the senior brass to recognize that there is a significant problem concerning race relations within the Peel Regional Police.’
– Barry Swadron, Staff Sgt. Baljiwan Sandhu’s lawyer
“The superiors in his particular case said that the work he did in diversity where he was an absolute star didn’t really count because it wasn’t real police work,” Swadron said in an interview.
“To think that the brass of the Peel Regional Police Service take the position that diversity or officers who are not white are to be undervalued, it was too much to swallow.”
Other officers ‘had no more experience’ but had support for promotion
Among the 33 officers who applied for promotion to inspector in 2013, only Sandhu and another applicant failed to get the backing of their immediate supervisors. That support is required for an applicant to move forward.
The other officer, however, met only the minimum requirements. Sandhu had held the role of staff sergeant or detective sergeant for about four years at the time, the…