Latest storiesQ & A

A male RCMP officer wearing red serge. A female RCMP officer in red serge standing outside.

Officers share their experiences and hopes for the RCMP

Ret. Cpl. Clarence Bodden graduated from Depot in 1971. He was the second Black member to join the organization. Cst. Sahar Manochehri followed her dream and joined the RCMP in 2019. She works at Burnaby detachment in British Columbia. Credit: RCMP

To mark the 150th anniversary of the RCMP, the Gazette met with two officers to discuss their careers and their hopes for the organization. Ret. Cpl. Clarence Bodden, 72, joined more than 50 years ago. He was the second Black recruit to become an officer at a time when RCMP officers were exclusively male and almost all white. Cst. Sahar Manochehri, joined in 2020 at age 46. She is currently working in Burnaby, B.C. Here's what they had to say about being a Mountie.

Why did you join the RCMP?

Bodden: I was looking for a career and an opportunity. I had dealings with members of the rural Yarmouth, N.S., RCMP detachment all the time as a teenager. They used to join us playing football. My contact with them was always positive, and they were instrumental in encouraging me to apply. On Oct. 14, 1970, I jumped in the car, drove to Depot, and started training five days later. I turned 21 at Depot.

Manochehri: My family moved to Canada from Iran in 1986. I learned about the RCMP through our school liaison officer in North Vancouver. Just seeing how he would interact with people got me interested. Then I just became obsessed with the RCMP.

In 2007 I applied, but unfortunately, I wasn't accepted. I worked security jobs and volunteered with the North Vancouver RCMP by using my Farsi language skills to translate for them. I applied a second time and again wasn't accepted, and I started to believe it wasn't meant to happen. But in 2019, with the amazing support of my husband, who is an RCMP officer, I applied again and got in. I only ever wanted to become a Mountie, so I never applied to any other police agencies. I couldn't shake off wanting to join the RCMP.

Where were you first posted?

Bodden: My first posting was in Sherwood Park, Alta. My instructions were: There's lots of people here — learn from them. Pick out the good points, leave the bad points, and go from there. It was a great place to work and, in my opinion, the RCMP was well respected. Us single guys spent a lot of our time off together at the detachment, and of course we worked during the holidays so the married guys could be with their families.

Manochehri: I was first posted to Burnaby, B.C. Depot teaches you a lot, but when you come out and start working in communities, it's a whole different world. There are people you meet who are pro-police and their appreciation makes me want to do my job better. Then you meet others who don't like police, which this allows you to learn to adapt to different behaviours that come your way and deal with different people in different situations.

What was a career highlight for you?

Bodden: Well, there have been many, and I appreciate them for different reasons. But I always remember the first time I investigated a break and enter and got the person's property back — it was in Dartmouth, N.S., in the mid-1970s. It's not often you're able to do that! The victim actually wrote me a thank-you letter that I still have today. This letter shaped the way I worked with victims of crime across my career. They were not just happy for getting their property back but for how I treated them throughout their ordeal. How we treat victims matter.

Manochehri: It's a great feeling to know you've helped someone for sure. I grew up in a family that was focused on helping. I love doing that and have embraced it in my career and private life. A moment that stands out for me is when we had an officer killed in the line of duty here last year. When that happened, I had some people, strangers who I had helped, email me to ask if I was doing OK. The fact they reached out means they care and is a sign that maybe I've done something right in my interactions with them. And I hope that reflects on the RCMP as a whole.

Was there a particularly challenging time in your policing career?

Bodden: Yeah, I can definitely remember one. It was when I was in charge of the detachment in Beiseker, Alta. There was a point in the 1990s when the four-person detachment was down to two. Losing two staff might not seem like much, but that's 50 per cent of your workforce. It was a very busy and stressful time. There were times, I can honestly say, that when I was home I hated to hear the phone ring. But, you still had to serve the community. I remember sending a memo to headquarters, after working a number of days, telling them I wouldn't be working the weekend. Somehow, they found someone who could provide some relief.

Manochehri: I'm still learning how to overcome the challenges I face. For instance, when you go to a call where someone has lost a loved one, I take that experience home with me. The struggle for me is that I find myself wishing I could do more. The challenge is trying to overcome those hard situations — you need to focus and do your job properly, but at the same time you are carrying this burden in your heart because you can't help everyone, and I feel bad about it.

Corporal Bodden, you joined the RCMP when, among the officer ranks, it was almost exclusively a white male institution. Do you see yourself as a trailblazer?

Bodden: I didn't really think about it a lot when I was first posted. I was a Mountie who happened to be Black. The fact that people said they had not seen a Black RCMP officer didn't necessarily mean there weren't other Black police officers out there somewhere. Thinking back, I believe senior Mounties were looking out for me to make sure I was being treated OK. Maybe seeing me in the RCMP, someone said: 'If he can do that, then I can do it.' Over the years I have had people come up to me and say 'I joined because I saw you.' Recently, I had a group of Black youth from Nova Scotia thank me for being an inspiration, not just for being an RCMP officer but as an example that they can be anything they want to be. This makes me feel good. You don't really know how you affect people, but you hope if you do, it's in a positive way. I never really thought about being a trailblazer or role model, but my children constantly remind me that I am.

Constable Manochehri, what kind of legacy would you like your service to have?

Manochehri: I grew up in a very strict Iranian family. The expectation was a female should be a mom, take care of children, and stay at home, so they were not very receptive to my interest in policing. I would love to show women and girls that anything is possible with hard work, and if you believe in yourself. I also want others to know that I have served the community to the best of my abilities, that I treated everyone with respect, and that I was able to make a positive impact.

How can the RCMP better attract and retain recruits?

Bodden: I think we have to do a better job telling our own stories. The RCMP does great work, but we don't hear enough about it. But what I do know is we have to make sure we have an environment where everyone feels that they can apply, and that they are welcome. And when they're in, we have to do everything we can to take care of them.

Manochehri: I completely agree. Officers do a lot of good, and we need to talk more about that. Policing is not for everyone, it's a tough job. You also need to be compassionate and want to help others.

What about advice for people who are considering a career as an RCMP officer?

Bodden: I would say speak to people who are working at the RCMP now — they know best.

Manochehri: Exactly. I strongly advise people who are interested in policing to do their research, speak to experienced officers, and ask about all aspects of the job. Would I recommend the RCMP? Absolutely! I'm proud to be a member.

Date modified: