RACIALIZED POLICE TECHNOLOGY APPLICANTS WHO FAIL SWIM TEST MAY HAVE FACED DISCRIMINATION
Montreal, July 27, 2015 --- CRARR is seeking Black and other racialized applicants to the Quebec-regulated police technology programs in colleges who failed the required swim test at the admission stage and who have been rejected as a result.
Studies in the U.S. have shown significant racial disparity in the use of swim tests in training and employment. In several cities, police and fire departments have dropped the swim test as an admission requirement after data showed that African American recruits failed the test at a disproportionately higher rate, often due to socio-economic and cultural factors. Consequently, the swimming requirement is deferred until the candidate is hired and then required, at the end of the probation period.
In Quebec, police technology program requirements and curricula are set by the Ministry of Public Security. It is a three-year technical training program offered in 12 different colleges whose graduates can then apply to the Quebec police academy for an additional training of 15 weeks before being eligible for employment.
Admission requirements include Canadian citizenship, permanent residency or refugee status, a high school diploma, a minimum of a probationary driver’s license, and a medical test.
Applicants must also pass a mandatory physical aptitude test, which includes a swim test. The swim test varies from college to college: at the Collège Ahuntsic in Montreal, its consists of two lapses, or 50 meters, within a maximum duration of 1.5 minute; at Cégep Garneau in Gatineau, candidates must continuously do 100 meters (or 4 lapses of 25 meters), without a time limit, although speed is taken into consideration. At John Abbott College, the only English-language college offering police technology courses, the swim test consists of swimming 200 meters “in a 25-meter pool, and (the required completion of) 8 lengths of the pool as quickly as possible (Time stops at 6 min).”
For reasons still unclear, several years ago, the provincial ministry made the swim test one of the conditions of admission into the police training program, This replaced the past rule that made the swim test a condition required for graduation, which gave admitted students time during their studies to hone their swimming skills.
According to one unnamed source, once the swim test was changed by the ministry into a condition of admission, the number of Black and other racialized applicants who failed to meet admission requirements increased, which in turn led to decreased minority representation in police technology programs in the Greater Montreal area.
CRARR has on occasion been contacted by Black applicants, particularly in Montreal, who failed the swim test. However, great reluctance to challenge this requirement exists, due to fear of professional retaliation.
In light of growing case law on systemic or adverse impact race discrimination, whereby neutral or universally applied rules can be declared discriminatory if they have a disparate or disproportionate negative effect on identifiable groups, CRARR encourages all racialized applicants to the police technology program in Quebec who fail the swim test to contact its office to discuss possible legal action to challenge this exclusionary requirement.