In 2013, the RCMP Recruiting Unit in British Columbia took unprecedented measures to encourage women to consider the RCMP as a career choice. The initiative, known as the Women's Accelerated Recruiting Process, was designed to meet an aggressive target to hire more women and create a more equitable balance between female and male members.
Since 1974, women have made significant contributions as RCMP officers in all regions of Canada and around the world. Women have brought with them a unique policing perspective.
They help provide a balanced approach to both resolving problems and developing relationships with the communities they serve. And they have made a positive impact on these communities while enjoying considerable opportunities for growth and development in many specialized units.
In an effort to appeal to female applicants, the Recruiting Unit in B.C. committed to reducing the application processing time to six months from an average of 12 months.
The typical RCMP application process consists of multiple steps with an evaluation completed at each step. These steps include a career presentation, an aptitude test, a physical assessment, an interview, a polygraph, medical/dental clearances, a background check and a security clearance.
If the applicant succeeds in completing the aptitude test, he or she is selected from an initial ranking list and forwarded a link via email with an invitation to complete the application package.
This comprehensive application package requires detailed responses about the applicant's past and current lifestyle. The applicant is given three weeks to complete the package and return it to the recruiting office. Once the package is received, it's reviewed by a regular member of the RCMP.
RCMP's Physical Abilities Requirements Evaluation (PARE) is as much a mental game as it is a physical one, especially for women.
"A lot of women don't even start our recruiting process because of the fear of the fitness component so we're trying to make it easier for them to see the RCMP as a viable career," says Cpl. Michelle Welsh, a recruiting officer for the RCMP in Ontario.
When Welsh noticed the trend that women attending recruiting sessions had specific concerns and anxieties associated with the PARE, a fitness test used to assess an applicant's ability to perform the physical demands of police work, she worked with Robert Séguin, Ontario's fitness and lifestyle advisor, to address them.
Knowing the best way to get over a fear is to face it, Welsh and Séguin developed the Women Only PARE Workshop.
Its purpose is to put women at ease with PARE in a comfortable environment.
"By introducing women to the actual physical course, providing them direction and being a cheerleader for them, we give them the tools they need to be successful when they actually take the PARE in the applicant process," Welsh says.
The workshops have been well-attended since beginning in 2007. The demand has led to more sessions in more locations with plans to expand further.
"As we've seen, women who attend one workshop will often attend another three months later," says Welsh. "We can actually see the improvement and their thought process towards the PARE becomes less of an obstacle and more of a challenge they can succeed in."
— Deidre Seiden
Two possibilities arise from the review of the applicant package: a recommendation to move the file forward or terminate the file. If recommended, the applicant is scheduled for a Regular Member Selection Interview (RMSI). The successful applicant then completes the behavioural/situational interview and is moved to the next step to complete the polygraph examination.
After the polygraph, the file goes back to a regular member and the results of this exam are reviewed with the applicant. After this secondary review, a decision is made again whether to move the applicant file forward or terminate the process. If the applicant is successful, a field investigation/background check is conducted while the medical and security clearances are obtained.
During the final stage, the entire file is reviewed to ensure the best-suited applicants are offered a position in the next troop scheduled for recruit training at Depot in Regina, Sask.
The accelerated process adheres to the identical standards of the current RCMP application process. However, there are some notable differences in the accelerated process. These differences were expressly initiated to reduce the application process time to six months or less.
First, a mandatory career presentation was held in September 2013 with more than 170 women in attendance. All attendees were eager to learn about the RCMP and the opportunities that would be possible if they succeeded in the application process.
To expedite and facilitate the career presentation, female members in the Recruiting Unit were on hand to answer any questions that arose. In addition, the attendees were encouraged to speak to a member after the presentation to ensure they understood the accelerated process. After the presentation, the unit provided specific dates to the applicants for when they should be available.
The second notable difference in the accelerated process was holding a pre-screening process immediately after the career presentation. This pre-screening process was comprised of a set of questions that allowed members of the Recruiting Unit the opportunity to select applicants who would have the greatest chance of succeeding in the process.
The applicants who met the pre-screening requirements were invited to write the aptitude test on a date provided. This process also gave members of the Recruiting Unit an opportunity to educate unsuccessful applicants on the steps they would need to take to succeed with their application.
A third difference in the recruiting process involved holding mandatory tutorial sessions for the applicants on the recruiting process. The content of these tutorial sessions consisted of a discussion or presentation on the following:
- the new electronic version of the aptitude test
- an updated study guide
- the importance of clearly addressing the required competencies of the RMSI
- how to complete, with honesty and transparency, a polygraph test
Finally, support staff (non-RCMP members) reviewed each form to ensure all parts of the application were completed both with accuracy and free of common clerical errors.
The Physical Abilities Requirements Evaluation, known as PARE, is the RCMP fitness test used to assess an applicant's ability to perform the physical demands of police work. Female applicants generally find PARE more challenging than their male counterparts, particularly with the push-pull portion.
For this reason, the applicants were given an optional practice PARE session. The two-hour session gave the applicants the opportunity to work with the RCMP fitness and lifestyle co-ordinators, who provided instruction on the push/pull, vault, lap times and how to prepare for PARE.
In the final stages of the accelerated process, 43 female applicants wrote the electronic version of the RCMP aptitude exam on October 19, 2013. Twenty-three women successfully completed the exam, and moved quickly toward their goal of becoming RCMP members. The electronic exam provides applicants with their test scores immediately after completing the test.
One key aspect of the accelerated process was that all of the applicants arrived at the exam with a completed RCMP application package. Completing the application package prior to the exam required each applicant to invest in the process before knowing if they have passed the aptitude test. But doing the work up front meant the initial file review could be done immediately, taking approximately eight weeks off of the processing time.
The PARE was completed the following day. Allowing the applicants to go through the optional training session proved beneficial: all but one applicant successfully completed the PARE.
The applicants worked diligently through the process, which included last minute-scheduling for appointments such as the polygraph examination and the RMSI interview when cancellations surfaced. Each applicant understood what was required for successful completion of their application by being available for last-minute openings.
Over the ongoing weeks, the Recruiting Unit treated the accelerated files as a priority. On February 12, 2014, two women from this process started cadet training at Depot. The application processing time took less than four months from the day they wrote the exam. Both women graduated August 5, 2014, just 10 months after their exam date.
The remaining successful applicants from the Women's Accelerated Recruiting Process were at Depot no later than June 2014. The last applicant, whose file was delayed due to unforeseen circumstances, started Depot on June 4, 2014.
For 40 years, female members have made significant contributions to the success of the RCMP mandate.
Continued growth in the number of female members is encouraging. With more female members, the RCMP believes it can provide better service to the diverse communities it serves.