When Doug Bowman was a young musician, he never
suspected he’d go on to enjoy a 40-year career in
Like many people in the industry, he fell
into the profession – but it didn’t take him long to realize its
Today, Bowman is the director of human resources for the Peel
Regional Police, the province’s second-largest municipal policing
service. Established in 1974, the organization serves 1.4 mil-lion
residents in Brampton, Mississauga, and Toronto Pearson
Bowman and his 41-member team have responsibility for the
HR function as it relates to 3,000 fully unionized members of the
police service, including almost 2,000 sworn officers and close to
While he continues to play recreationally in a big band as well as
his own quartet, Bowman has never regretted his decision to con-centrate
his career on labour and employee relations.
HR Professional asked him to hit the high notes in a discussion
about his diverse, challenging career where no two days are ever
When did you decide you wanted a career in
Doug Bowman: I’d been crisscrossing Canada as a road musi-cian
since finishing my undergrad in music and was looking to
make a change. My father had recently started his own labour rela-tions
consulting firm; he offered me a position managing the office.
Overhearing the consultants discuss arbitration cases and labour
negotiations, I was fascinated by the legal arguments, the strategies
and tactics of bargaining, and the craft of drafting contract language.
I knew pretty quickly this was a field I wanted to work in.
What was your first HR job?
DB: My position in the firm evolved into my first HR job. That
was in 1979, and very little formal HR training was available. I
started taking courses through what was then the Personnel
Association of Toronto and by reading the entire set of Labour
Arbitration Cases. I began doing case law research for the con-sultants’
cases and accompanying them to hearings. Then, I began
representing client firms before the Ontario Labour Relations
Board. Ultimately, I was presenting arbitration cases and speaking
for a range of private and public firms. It was such an incredible
Tell me about your current job. What are your main
areas of responsibility?
DB: During my 20-plus-year career with Peel Regional Police,
my responsibilities have varied with organizational and leader-ship
changes. Those responsibilities have included labour and
employee relations, total rewards, performance management,
human resource management systems, talent management, orga-nizational
wellness and occupational health and safety.
What do you love about your job?
DB: First, no two days are ever the same. One day, I may be lead-ing
a committee to develop a broad new policy initiative; the next,
I’m meeting with the Association about a labour issue, or talking
about performance management or making a presentation to the
organization’s senior officers. It really is everything from “soup to
nuts,” often in the same day. Second, I love interacting with sworn
and civilian staff at every level of the organization, including my
HR team. I feel very fortunate to lead a skilled, knowledgeable and
dedicated team of HR professionals whose contribution is invalu-able
to achieving HR’s mandate.
What are the challenges you experience in your job?
DB: Internally, it’s really the flip side to the idea that no two days
are the same. Often, I must balance competing priorities, or react
to changing priorities, and how they impact time, staff resources
and available funding – all of which are limited. From an external
perspective, responding to legislative change can be challenging.
As examples, the recent post-traumatic stress disorder legislation
for first responders and the legalization of cannabis have had a sig-nificant
impact upon the policing sector generally, and upon HR
Photo courtesy of Marla Allan
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