Congratulations to 2015 Advocacy Award Nominee, Chief Brad Duncan (Retired). The Advocacy Award recognizes a business/organization of under 10 employees OR an individual who has continuously and tirelessly promoted the concept of ability first, supported people in their efforts to obtain meaningful employment, and who has brought new and innovative perspectives to the workplace.
The annual Ability First Coalition Champion Awards celebrate and honour businesses, companies, individuals and organizations that have hired and retained people with disabilities in London, Ontario and surrounding area.
Nominee: Chief Brad Duncan (Retired)
Chief Duncan, now retired from the London Police Service, agrees that with regard to policing organizations there often exists the assumption that hiring people with disabilities is not possible. He says, “Obviously from a sworn law enforcement member perspective there are bona fide job requirements that must be met”. While sworn member qualifications are statutorily prescribed, the London Police Service also employs over 200 civilians on a full time basis and within these roles there exists a great opportunity in hiring people with various types of disabilities.
In January of 2007, Community Living London (CLL) approached the London Police Service (LPS) and asked if there would be an interest in employing someone with a disability. CLL introduced the candidate they had in mind, and explained his abilities. The LPS looked internally to see what work was available and talked with CLL about their needs. At that time, members of the LPS were all doing their own shredding, a job that would require them to leave their areas and take them away from their duties. Chief Duncan says, “If you started adding up all of the time spent every day, clearly there was a role for somebody to do that.” From this, the London Police Service created a position for work that was already there.
Chief Duncan emphasizes, “It’s not about creating a position just for the sake of creating a position that doesn’t have any real value. That’s not a good process. You must apply the concept of ability first to the workplace. Otherwise, it doesn’t become meaningful work.”
This concept of meaningful work is extremely important for both the employer as well as the employee. His advice is to first look at your business need and then hire appropriately. “It’s not about just putting a job out there that would not necessarily involve meaningful work. It has to be meaningful for the organization and for the individual.” Chief Duncan elaborates by saying, “You must value the person on the basis of what they bring to the workplace. When that is what you concentrate on, the disability goes away from both the perspective of the employer and employee.”
Finding the right fit is something Chief Duncan points out as essential. He says, “The key is fit. It’s recognizing the work and the ability. You don’t want to devalue the work or the person by not getting the right fit. It’s really important so the work that individual does is not only gratifying to the individual, it provides value to the organization.
As a unionized environment with plenty of protocols to follow, it could have justifiably been difficult to find an appropriate hire. Everyone needed to be on board. Chief Duncan was not only happy with the quality of their hire, but he was so impressed that he knew this practice of hiring needed to be adapted on a widespread level for an even higher level of success.
At the 2012 Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police Annual General Meeting, Chief Duncan issued the Chiefs Challenge, a call-to-action for all police departments, including RCMP and OPP, across the province to employ a diverse workforce and to experience the benefits in hiring a person with a developmental disability.
He encouraged attendees to provide meaningful employment opportunities and to foster an inclusive working environment, where all employees are appreciated and valued. As a direct result of this advocacy, a number of departments in other jurisdictions have also hired. “Chief Duncan’s commitment and willingness to promote the hiring of people with disabilities to his fellow police chiefs across the province and within the business community shows his dedication,” said Michelle Palmer, Executive Director with Community Living London.
Chief Duncan takes many opportunities to further speak and advocate for hiring persons with a disability to many groups and associations including, but not limited to, the Ontario Association for Chiefs of Police and the Ontario Disability Employment Network. As well, Chief Duncan was chosen as a member of the Lieutenant Governor’s Accessibility Committee for Employment.
This advocacy continues today with current Chief John Pare and through the acceptance of the entire London Police Service department to carry the torch lit by Chief Brad Duncan.