Vol. 79, No. 4Emerging trends

Six Mounties in red serge stand shoulder to shoulder.

Trading blue for red

Program brings experience to the RCMP

Cst. Natasha Couture, alongside her experienced police officer troopmates, had almost 12 years of experience with another police service when she joined the RCMP. Credit: RCMP

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As an experienced police officer, RCMP Cst. Eliot Hill brings a unique perspective to the RCMP where he has worked for just over a year.

Before he started general-duty policing in the Codiac region in New Brunswick, Hill worked for the Toronto Police Service Emergency Task Force, the equivalent of the RCMP's Emergency Response Team, for more than a decade.

"It's not just the experience I bring, it's valuable to have an outside opinion," says Hill. "The young guys on my shift often ask how something compares to Toronto. I can reinforce that this is a good spot to be."

Experienced recruits

Hill joined the RCMP through the Experienced Police Officer Program. Since 2000, 457 police officers have traded their former police uniforms for the iconic red serge.

The program is specific to the entry of members from other Canadian police agencies or Canadian Forces Military Police trained after the year 2000.

Experienced police officers from outside of Canada have to apply through the regular recruiting process as long as they're a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident who has lived in Canada for 10 consecutive years.

Experienced police applicants must have two years of experience and have graduated from a Canadian police training institution to qualify.

Typically, one troop of 12 to 32 experienced Canadian police officers receives five weeks of training at Depot, the RCMP's training academy, each year.

The journey to get to Depot can be long, says Sgt. Chris Smigelsky, who's in charge of National Recruiting Program Policy and Process. "We have so many applicants coming through that it takes time," says Smigelsky.

The process is a bit different than the Cadet Training Program: lateral applicants apply directly to the province (RCMP division) where they want to work, through recruiters.

Smigelsky gives divisional staffing three months to review all the applicants and select who they want to hire. After that, applicants have to complete various stages of the recruiting process to determine if they meet the high standards of the RCMP, which takes about a year.

During that year, they must successfully complete the Physical Abilities Requirement Evaluation (PARE), a polygraph interview and examination, a field investigation and security clearance as well as a health assessment.

"It's quite the process," says Hill. "I think I was assisted by the fact that I had done a secondment with the RCMP ERT. I knew a lot of people that could clarify the process for me, which reassured me."

150 reasons to join

Every lateral hire has his or her own reason for joining. Hill's motivation was to find work-life balance.

"I probably had the best job in policing in Canada," says Hill. "But my kids wouldn't care what was on my resumé 20 years from now. My personal life was basically spent commuting and recovering from my commute. That's one of the main reasons that brought us here."

The most common reason that experienced police officers are drawn to the RCMP is for the opportunities.

"A lot of laterals come over because we have 150 different things we can do in the force as a constable," says Smigelsky. "You can work overseas, do a United Nations mission, be a dog handler, a diver — there are so many different things that smaller departments don't have."

Opportunity is the exact reason Cst. Natasha Couture made the switch.

"My previous department was always good to me," says Couture. "They're a good employer and I was fortunate to receive a lot of training with them, but there are only so many places you can go in a small department. The RCMP has so many opportunities open to us. I think that was a common denominator among my troopmates."

Couture says that she was impressed with the combined expertise of her troop. "We brought different components to our team," says Couture. "We would have been interesting to have all 13 members in one detachment. We would've been a highly-skilled team."

Smigelsky says this is one of the biggest benefits of the program.

"Not only can we get these members faster to the field as there is only five weeks of training versus 26 at Depot, we benefit from their experience and even expertise," says Smigelsky. "They bring that across and we benefit from that experience right away."

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