Students from high schools across the central Island are getting a taste of what it’s like to become an RCMP officer.
Forty-eight students from high schools in Nanaimo, Oceanside, Port Alberni and the Cowichan Valley are spending five days this week of intensive police skills training at the RCMP Central Vancouver Island Youth Camp where they can discover if they’d like to pursue careers in law enforcement.
The students go through scenarios that police encounter on the job, do fitness training, learn how to work as a team, learn self-defence and even get get some tactical training while interacting with officers, including RCMP marine and police service dog units, emergency response team members and others.
Cadets met special Const. Greg Thompson, pilot of the RCMP’s Air 8 helicopter, who touched down on Cedar Community Secondary School’s field Wednesday and explained the machine’s operational characteristics and how the aircraft is used in police work.
The RCMP hosts similar camps across Canada and Thompson’s hour-long visit is an example of how students are shown the range of career options available to them with the police force.
“We want engage with our youth and we want to show them all the different avenues and opportunities that the RCMP has,” said Cpl. Chris Manseau, RCMP E Division media relations officer. “It’s not just local police, driving a police car, doing traffic – we’re bringing in members from the air services team, the dog team, the forensics ident team, recruiting. We want to show that there are more than 150 different specializations in the RCMP and that it’s a career that can take you, literally, anywhere in the world.”
The students are selected for the program through an application process that requires them to submit resumés and pass an interview process with RCMP youth liaison officers in their schools who ultimately recommend them to and support them during the summer camp program.
Mason Maddison, 16, who attends Alberni District Secondary School in Port Alberni, said he and the other cadets are learning about discipline, paying attention to detail and how to maintain composure and respond professionally when treated with disrespect, among other things.
“We’re learning a lot about discipline – how you want to treat disrespect with respect,” Maddison said. “We’re learning a lot self-defence, hard work. You just get a lot of great opportunities.”
The cadets are trained to be responsible and careful with personal and work-related equipment that must be kept secure, such as notebooks, an important tool of police work containing information that officers don’t want to leave laying around.
“I left my notebook – we’re supposed to have it with us – I left it on the bleachers there during drill training,” he said. “They kind of called me out for it … It’s important to keep it secure and safe and know where it is at all times and I didn’t.”
The coolest experience, as of Wednesday, he said was getting up close with the helicopter.
“It’s pretty cool. You don’t get to see that every day,” Maddison said. “And we’re going paint-balling tomorrow, so that should be fun.”
Manseau said community support is also key to helping the RCMP host the camps each summer. Lunch Wednesday was catered by Coco Café in Cedar, and Fresh Slice Pizza, an annual supporter, donated the cadets’ dinner the night before.
Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district supplies the school space and covers custodian costs.
“We definitely couldn’t run this camp without … because the RCMP, as an organization, cannot go out and solicit for funds, we basically have to know people who know people who want to support us and these types of events and we couldn’t do it without them,” Manseau said.