When Darcie Bernhardt was first approached with the idea of becoming a Mountie, she thought "maybe."
The 20-year-old Inuit woman from Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., then went to Depot, the RCMP's training academy in Regina, for three weeks as part of this year's Aboriginal Pre-Cadet Training Program (APTP). But by half-way point of the APTP's eight-week detachment posting in her hometown. over the summer, she moved to "I will apply."
"You become a new person by putting on the uniform," she says. "And I like this new person."
- Between 19 and 29 years of age
- First Nation, Métis or Inuit descent
- Canadian citizen
- Be of good character
- Able to pass an enhanced reliability security check
- In good physical condition
- Possess a Canadian secondary school (high school) diploma or equivalent
- Possess and maintain a valid, unrestricted Canadian driver's licence
APTP is designed to give young aboriginal men and women a first-hand look at a career in policing while also preparing them to be competitive in the application process. Over the summer, candidates spend three weeks at Depot and then another eight weeks at a detachment in or near their home community.
During their time at training academy, candidates are given the basics in a variety of areas including the Criminal Code, cultural diversity, defensive techniques, escorting and searching subjects, directing traffic and investigating collisions, and preparing for the RCMP fitness test.
At the detachment, they often shadow officers on general duty or other specialized areas such as traffic enforcement, and work on crime prevention and community policing projects.
For Shawn Sullivan, a 2012 APTP graduate, the program solidified his plan to join the RCMP. The three weeks at Depot was much more challenging than he expected. But now, as a full-fledged cadet going through the 24-week training program, he's grateful for the experience.
"It really helped when I started here as a cadet," he says. "I had a much better idea of what to expect and basic knowledge in many of the subjects I'm now learning."
The 21-year-old Métis from Cranbrook, B.C., grew up with the RCMP — his father is now retired after a 32-year career with the force.
"APTP gave me the front-line experience in the field that confirmed this is what I'm meant to do," says Sullivan.
Since 1996, 470 candidates have completed the program and about half have gone on to apply to the RCMP. Approximately four dozen candidates have successfully become police officers with the RCMP and about 20 are employed in other capacities within the organization.
APTP is also an important tool in building relationships with the aboriginal communities served by the RCMP. Graduates bring a valuable perspective and understanding of their unique cultures, enhancing the ability to create better partnerships and relationships.
"She adds to the connection between the community and the police," says Sgt. Bill Mooney, Bernhardt's detachment commander in Tuktoyaktuk and a 30-year veteran of the force. "You can see the pride on the faces of people of all ages in the community when they see a young local person working in uniform."
Bernhardt says she feels the pride of the community as well.
"Not very many people say anything, but I get a lot of smiles," she says
In addition to working alongside officers on patrol, Sgt. Mooney has Bernhardt working on an all-terrain vehicle and boating safety project and helping out with Tuk Power, a youth fitness program — the same one Darcie was in when she asked to apply to APTP. She is also doing administrative shifts to give her some experience with the paperwork involved in policing.
For both Bernhardt and Sullivan, the variety and spontaneity that was part of their detachment postings are major pluses of the career.
"I got to see quite a bit," says Sullivan. "It gave me a broad view of policing and the RCMP.
"If you're not sure, this program is a great stepping stone to see if this is the career for you."
For more information on joining the RCMP, please visit RCMPcareers.ca.