Vol. 81, No. 3News notes

A man and a woman sit talking with their backs to actors on a stage.

RCMP partners with high school for crisis training

Realistic training scenarios are among the best ways crisis negotiators can keep their skills sharp. Credit: RCMP


Vancouver Island RCMP officers went back to high school this March to refresh their crisis negotiation skills.

Officers from Vancouver Island's crisis negotiation team visited Royal Bay High School collaborating with drama students to conduct realistic training scenarios.

In the field, crisis negotiators work with incident commanders and the Emergency Response Team to help diffuse tense situations. Through active listening and communication, they seek peaceful outcomes during a crisis.

Cpl. Jill Swann, Vancouver Island crisis negotiation team co-ordinator, says the student actors never appeared nervous and were committed to their roles.

"They tried to make it tough and it can be very dynamic," she says.

Swann recalled one scene where the negotiators resolved a hostage situation but the student then made it a barricaded-person scenario.

"It keeps us on our toes and that's what we need in our training," says Swann, who's been with the RCMP for 22 years and a crisis negotiator since 2005.

During the training, negotiators sat with their backs to the stage listening and responding. This imitates actual negotiations where sometimes a telephone is the only way police can contact someone in crisis.

After a scenario, which could last up to 45 minutes, the negotiators and students would discuss the negotiators' responses including tone of voice and active listening.

Jackson Fraser, a Grade 12 student who participated in the training for the third time, says the improvisation and character creation made it a great acting experience.

He says students were prepped by their teacher beforehand to try to make negotiators use different techniques and de-escalation methods.

Swann says working with high school students helps officers learn about the perspectives of young people and maintains open communication with youth.

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