Chief Duncan 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, Kevin Hewett, and explained his abilities as well as his disability. 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.” So the London Police Service created a position for work that was already there.
Chief Duncan emphasises, “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.”
For the London Police Service, Kevin Hewett is an excellent fit. He has now been employed for over six years in document protection and Chief Duncan says, “We’ve gained a great young man. He collects documentation from literally every part of the department and interacts with everyone. His position carries with it a lot of responsibility.”
As for Kevin Chief Duncan states, “Kevin certainly appreciates the income but it’s much more to him than just the income. His job provides him with self value and it’s purposeful. Kevin is very engaging. There are lots of folks here who now know Kevin on a more personal basis. We have employees that go to watch him at his ball games and gather for birthday parties at his home. He truly gets embraced.”
Chief Brad Duncan was awarded by the Ontario Disability Employment Network with a Champions League Award at their fall conference in 2012. He is shown here with London Police Service Document Protection Worker Kevin Hewett who is holding the award.
Chief Duncan highlights the advantage of working with an agency like Community Living London,
First of all they understand the business. They are extremely aware of the need to have a strong employer-employee relationship and a clear understanding of what each responsibility is. They want to ensure that the fit is right and so they closely monitor the situation. They clearly understand it’s not simply about placement; it’s about ongoing follow up and ongoing support. That’s what makes the difference and that’s why you have successful placements.
The first step for interested employers is to reach out to one of the agencies and have a meeting. Chief Duncan recommends, “Simply ask. There’s no obligation, it’s not like a sales pitch. It’s simply a conversation. An agency can answer your questions and then say this is how we can help you and that’s what gives the employer comfort. It’s not just you trying to manage the employee. You also have an agency. When the placement occurs, they don’t leave. They’ve been engaged here for years. So whether it’s Community Living London, Hutton House or Goodwill Industries, they all know their business, they’ve been doing it for a long time. So just reach out and ask, “What would this look like in my organization?” The saying nothing ventured, nothing gained holds true. Try the relationship and see if it does work for your business.”
An issue that is sometimes raised is employers thinking they have to alter their business practices or structure. Chief Duncan says, “We’re not asking you to do that. If someone can step in and assist you they’re not changing your business, they’re helping your business. That’s what I would say to potential employers. You might actually be surprised about how well it will work within the context of your office or your organization, so give it a chance.”