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Police academy opens to high schoolers

Next spring the halls of St. Albert Catholic High School will be turned into a police-style dormitory as 32 youths attend the first-ever youth police academy. The St.

Next spring the halls of St. Albert Catholic High School will be turned into a police-style dormitory as 32 youths attend the first-ever youth police academy.

The St. Albert Youth Academy will parallel the format of the actual RCMP training academy — or depot — in Regina, said Cpl. Laurel Kading of the St. Albert detachment.

Grade 11 and 12 students from the four local school boards — Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools, St. Albert Protestant Schools, Greater North Central Francophone authority and Sturgeon School Division — will be eligible to attend the week-long academy that will take place during spring break. It will be a work experience program with credits available.

"It will be a rich experience for the students where they learn what it's like to be an RCMP officer for a week," said David Quick, assistant superintendent for Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools.

The program has never been offered in Alberta before, although there are three similar programs in schools in British Columbia.

Kading is accepting resumes and applications now for a maximum of 32 students, male and female. Applicants must write a letter and must have a letter of recommendation from their school. The fee for the police academy is $350, which covers food, materials, uniforms and other course costs. Once all the applications are received, Kading and Cst. Janice Schoepp will begin interviewing students.

Those students who take part will receive one credit for every 25 hours of work. Some of that work and training begins soon after they are accepted into the program and they must attend a safety course.

"They need to maintain a fitness log of 30 minutes on each of three days and it must be verified," said Kading.

Daily inspection

Students check in to the school on the Friday of spring break. They will be issued a uniform, which consists of a tracksuit, a pair of shorts and a ball cap. They must bring their own sleeping bags, but they will have a cot and a nightstand and every day they must pass inspection.

Then, having passed a 6 a.m. inspection, the students will go outside for a morning jog.

One of the most exciting exercises will allow the youths to work as if they were police officers, in a simulated checkstop set up in the parking lot of St. Albert Catholic High School.

"They will be stopping a vehicle. They will be policing in controlled circumstances," Kading said, as she explained that observing police officers will also offer a debriefing once the arrests have been made.

The instructors will not gloss over the tough parts of policing. They may talk about what it's like to attend the scene of a horrific accident or to go to a home where there is family violence. But lessons will be tempered to make them applicable to the day's lesson.

"I won't control what the lecturer brings in. We are not here to scare the kids, but they will learn the reality of policing. They will learn why we approach a vehicle in a certain way for safety reasons," Kading said.

Kading anticipates that the week long camp will also be fun. The kids will be issued a set of handcuffs. They will be put into who-dunnit situations and having solved the mystery, they will make a pseudo-arrest.

"After a successful arrest, they will have to explain it in court," said Kading.

Though it is a pilot project for St. Albert, students are very excited about applying for the course, said Bellerose work experience co-ordinator Bill Turnham.

"It's a real opportunity for students interested in law enforcement," he said. "They will learn about laws, they'll learn some tactical defence and training exercises and they will participate in policing in a very real way."

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