Teens interested in policing will step into the shoes of RCMP officers next spring to see how law enforcement suits them.
The St. Albert detachment is in the midst of recruiting up to 24 students in Grade 10, 11 and 12 from around central Alberta, including the Edmonton region, to take part in a week-long youth academy at Bellerose High School from March 23 to 29.
For teens who wonder what it’s like to be dispatched to a call, make an arrest or seize evidence, the hands-on camp immerses them day and night in activities that aim to simulate the level of training RCMP officers receive at Depot Division, their training academy in Regina.
Cpl. Laurel Kading says the youth academy has two advantages: sparking an interest in youth to become police officers and serving as a crime prevention tool.
“While the youth are coming in and learning about policing as a career, they’re also learning why the police stop people in vehicles for certain reasons, they are learning about being a good citizen,” Kading said.
“People can see if this really is a job they’d like to apply for once they’re old enough, and get a bit of a taste for it first-hand.”
Sturgeon County resident Rachel Spiker, who has been interested in becoming a police officer for years, attended the youth academy in 2014 when she was in Grade 10. Now, she plans to apply to the RCMP in March.
Spiker, who was encouraged to apply to the youth academy by a family friend who is also an officer, says her experience there changed her perspective on what it means to be a police officer.
“We got to see it from their perspective. You always see the police come in and what they do, but (at the academy) we got to see why they do it, all the steps behind it,” she said.
Spiker has since been to a camp at Depot Division as well and says the youth academy is very similar to the training that goes on there.
Although the work is demanding – requirements on the City of St. Albert’s website say students should be physically and medically fit before applying – the reward is worth it.
“You think that you’re doing poorly at something … but you’re actually excelling to the best of your abilities. You make such great friends, and the way you get to know people is so much different than school or working with somebody,” she said.
“You’re waking up at 5:30 a.m. and going to bed at midnight, going for runs, and you’re falling asleep at the table with each other but you’re so excited to be there and you want to keep going – you just want more of it.
She recalls one scenario where the troop simulated a car accident.
“We were going step by step, by the book, so we actually phoned my mom and (said), ‘This is just a scenario, but I’m in a car accident,’ ” she said with a laugh.
“It was great.”
Kading says the experience is a positive one for the officers who take part, as well. She estimates 30 to 40 officers from a variety of sections take part in the camp throughout the week.
“What I find most officers talk about is it energizes and rejuvenates us again,” she said.
“They get to meet some really neat kids who they may not have met in the normal course of duties … (and) it puts us back in touch with the excitement of learning something for the first time.”
The week closes with a regimental dinner – normally an officer-only affair – and a graduation ceremony.
Applications close Nov. 10 at the end of the school day. The application process mimics the process actual officers go through during hiring, including interviews between youths and officers.