In Part 4 of our major crimes series, Gazette magazine features a mentoring program in the Yukon that gives RCMP officers a chance to learn new skills and see if major crime work is the right choice for them.
By Paul Northcott
While the RCMP training academy prepares cadets for their first assignments, on-the-job mentors help provide new officers with insight into the intricacies of investigative police work.
That's the intent of Yukon's Major Crime Mentorship Program, which was developed to provide an opportunity for officers to determine if major crime work is a career choice to pursue and for senior officers to identify potential candidates.
I've seen other mentorship programs and I know the value," says Sgt. Greg Holmberg, who works with the Major Crime Unit (MCU) in the Yukon and helped launch the program. "
It exposes Major Crime Unit work to those who are interested and qualified, gives us an opportunity to cultivate that interest while also providing an extra body to support the unit's work."
Learning up close
In Yukon, the pilot program is open to constables and corporals with at least two years of service and who have demonstrated potential in conducting serious crime investigations.
Candidates spend 30 days with major crime investigators and other plain-clothes units such as the General Investigative and Forensic Identification Sections. However, those days may be broken into two or more sections depending on the officers' availability.
Cst. Emma Leslie in 2019 shadowed members of the MCU, which investigates homicides, attempted murders, suspicious deaths and serious crimes.
It gave me the chance to see all aspects of the unit's work up close and it's something I might want to do down the road," says Leslie, who works on domestic violence and sexual assault cases in Whitehorse. "
The work certainly changes from day to day."
Leslie says she learned more about investigations, interview techniques, case management and was present when investigators met with the family members whose relative was killed. The suspect in the case was eventually convicted of manslaughter.
It was interesting to be a part of the mentorship program. For the most part, in my policing career, once the court case is over, that's the end of it for me," says Leslie. "
But there was something to be said for making that connection with the family, even though it was challenging to be a part of."
Developing new skills
Leslie's mentor, Cst. John Gillis, says the program is an excellent way for officers to experience new facets of policing.
That's especially true in smaller detachments where members may not get as much exposure to specialized sections as those who work in larger centres," he says.
Holmberg adds that's significant no matter what career path the mentored officer follows.
Sure we want people to come to the unit," he says. "
But ultimately, no matter if they decide to apply and join an MCU or not, it's also important that when they leave they return to their detachments as better police officers."
The Yukon Major Crime Mentorship Program will be offered again in late 2020 or early 2021.