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Mentors of the next generation

Facilitators turn cadets into Mounties

Cpl. Damien Smith teaches cadets the skills they'll need when they become Mounties. Credit: Chrystal Normand

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Cpl. Damien Smith knew when he left Depot after graduation that he would one day return as a facilitator. After becoming an experienced contract police officer, he did just that — first as an Applied Police Sciences (APS) facilitator and then as a Drill instructor.

In the role of Drill instructor, Smith played the part of the antagonist, often finding interesting ways to encourage cadets to remember the expectations the force had for them, like moving a cadet's mattress into the hall if his bed wasn't properly made, in addition to perfecting their drill techniques.

"If they didn't already have it in their pocket, I helped develop the appropriate self-discipline to aid them in their careers and also have them foster teamwork and an interdependence within their troop," says Smith.

Teacher and mentor

From the day that new recruits arrive at Depot to the day they graduate, it's the facilitators' job to shape these future police officers and prepare them for the field.

Cpl. Wanda Jackson sees herself as both a teacher and a mentor, with the goal of putting out the best product possible — good quality members.

"We're putting out new members that understand what they're doing and the ramifications of the power that they're given as a police officer, and we make sure they're doing it in a safe manner for both themselves and the public, and that they're not going against the law," says Jackson.

For Cpl. Curtis Davis, his 12 years of experience in the field combined with his interest in education made his decision to become a facilitator an easy one.

He taught troops as an APS and Firearms facilitator before moving into a brand-new position as the cadet resource liaison. He was the neutral party who would listen to cadets' concerns and give them a safe place to express themselves — an important resource for cadets who go through a lot during their six months of training.

"If they wanted to cry in my office, go ahead and cry, because this was the place to do it," says Davis. "I went through a lot of boxes of tissues."

Tough conversations

It's not always an easy job. After spending hundreds of hours with cadets, the relationships are quite strong. Jackson says she can be nurturing, but also knows when to be tough.

"Sometimes I have to have the disappointed parent talk because that works better than yelling at them," says Jackson. "They're like your kids and then you're sending them out in the real world and hoping that they succeed — that they don't get in trouble or get hurt."

And then there are the difficult conversations. If a cadet is struggling, they do what they can to help them move forward. But in some circumstances, they have to make the hard decision to send someone home.

"We would be doing Canada and the Canadian public a disservice if we didn't have those difficult conversations with the occasional cadet saying that I don't think this job, or this career is right for you because of this, this and this," says Curtis.

But it's a rewarding job. The facilitators can clearly see a difference in the cadets from the day they first arrive, looking like a deer caught in headlights, to the confid-ence they have when they graduate as new constables.

"To watch 32 people who couldn't count to 32 the first hour they were on the floor with me, to the day they graduate to see the precision and teamwork that developed amongst them was really quite something," says Smith.

Highly satisfying

After 6½ years, five years and eight years, respectively, Davis, Smith and Jackson have all transferred into new positions. For Davis, accepting new challenges is a part of the job.

"One of the reasons we joined the RCMP was for the opportunity to change," says Davis.

But all three agree it will definitely be a highlight of their careers. Smith adds it was the best job he'll ever have in the force.

"There are very few things in my career that will equal that level of satisfaction," says Smith. "To have it multiplied by 32 times every time a troop graduates, it's an honour, it's a privilege and it's truly satisfying."

Reprinted with permission from the Pony Express (No. 1, 2015).

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