Capping off a week filled with intense experiences, rigorous training and disciplined schedule, 21 students from three school districts showcased some of their learning during an RCMP Police Academy graduation ceremony at Thompson Rivers University on April 22.
For five days, the students, or “cadets” had been put through their paces, eating and sleeping at Thompson Rivers University and doing everything from learning about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to 6 a.m. personal training sessions, to action-filled scenarios where cadets learned to act as real RCMP officers.
“We tried to structure it as a mini RCMP Depot experience,” said Cpl. Matt Shearer, who co-ordinated the academy alongside Cpl. Bentley Johannson and School District 27’s Dave Corbett. Depot is the RCMP Training Academy in Regina, Sask.
He said cadets weren’t told what would be happening next throughout the week.
“Really it wasn’t very different from what we do, because on a minute-to-minute basis you don’t know what is coming. Watching them be flexible and adapt to what was happening was neat.”
For cadets Carson Springer and Lillian Brown, both Grade 12 students at Lake City Secondary School, the experience was a valuable crash course in what both of them are looking into following graduation. Brown hopes to be a police officer herself one day, while Springer is considering a career in either the military or the RCMP.
Brown said, since being in a situation herself as a child when police were involved, she’s always wanted to be a police officer.
“I like helping people, and I’ve been in situations with police officers, and I know how hard it is for kids,” she said. “That’s the part I want to go into.”
Cadets had to apply and pass an interview and fitness test to be accepted into the academy, where 21 students from School District 27, Bella Coola and the Gold Trail School District (Clinton and Cache Creek) joined for the week.
Cadets were run through the basic tenants of law, powers of arrest, the common criminal code offenses, and then ran them through actual scenarios and put them in the positions of police officers themselves, handling mischief, assaults, domestic assaults, break and enters and even a situation where they were required to call for a police dog.
“With the car crash scenario they kind of just opened up the door, and let us go,” said Springer. “We did scenarios the night before, so we had a basis, and they just said go deal with it. You had your contact and you had your cover and then you had your two backup and I found that was great because we all knew our roles and we just had to execute them.”
At one point, the emergency response team from Prince George touched down in a helicopter, during an exercise where cadets watched, unaware of what was going to happen.
“All of a sudden some guy comes screaming into the parking lot, jumps out of a busted truck with a busted front and he runs out and it sounds like a gun and all you see is a helicopter going closer,” said Brown. “The helicopter has smoke bombs thrown down and flash bombs and then we had the police dog that came running out of the helicopter. With the ‘bad guy’ (with protection on his arm) the dog just came running and clamped his teeth into the protection and they came in and it was pretty cool.”
Both students say that throughout the week they saw their confidence grow.
“I learned my adaptability and durability,” said Springer. “For the first day or two I was feeling off and then I adapted pretty quickly… You have to step up when you are in that role and my durability was when you are put on the spot you can’t just sit there and twiddle your thumbs — you have to take action.”
For Brown, part of it came down to finding her voice.
“I am a quiet person at first so I had to learn to speak up,” she said. “I found that I can be a good leader, I am more like a follower at first — I like somebody else to take charge but then I had to. It took a while but then the police officers told me I was pretty close to being one of the best for the scenario of being a police officer because when you need something done, and you tell someone else what to do and they don’t do it, you have to go in there and take charge.”
The academy is not just about teaching policing skills, said Shearer.
“Some of the things we tried to instill were some self confidence, confidence in your own abilities. You’ve got the skills. Be confident in it. Also some assertiveness: take charge in a stressful situation, and the ability to manage your stress is a huge thing.
“They were certainly put to task several times where they were required to manage their own stress and bring themselves and chaotic situations under control and they did a great job of grabbing hold of those skill sets.”
Throughout it all, though, both cadets said they had a lot of fun, as did Cpl. Shearer, who credits the many volunteers from the RCMP and the community who came out and volunteered and helped.
“Watching them develop that confidence in their abilities and demonstrate it as well — not cockiness but confidence — was great,” he said.
Even after the five days were over, both Springer and Brown found themselves marching, rather than walking, during ordinary situations. Neither has been able to put their hands in their pockets — something forbidden at the academy — and Springer even found himself automatically putting on his track suit after waking up.
“Even just after five days you get into a routine,” he said.
“We were talking in the boys’ dorm about how we wish it was a couple weeks longer because we just started getting into the groove. There were a couple times where the corporal didn’t even inspect us — he just kind of glanced at us and knew our rooms were perfect and he knew our dress was fine, so we were getting into the groove and bonding as a troop.”
“It was definitely fun, you go in there, and people say it’s going to be so hard and then you have people say it’s going to be fun. It was definitely both,” said Brown. “You have people who support you and encourage you to go further than you usually would.”
“It was an awesome experience. I’d do it again,” added Springer.