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Skills from previous careers help RCMP officers in policing

Cst. Erin Power, left, is a former social worker who now works with the Specialized Investigative Team in Nunavut. Many RCMP officers use important skills from previous careers. Credit: RCMP


The skills that many RCMP officers bring with them from previous careers have helped them save lives, diffuse tense situations and support fellow officers in the stresses of policing.

Expertise from a broad range of vocations — including a pastor, a social worker and a lifeguard, among others — can easily be applied to police work.

"For me it was the desire to do more and help more people," says Cst. Ryan Harnum of his 2016 decision to leave his job as a pastor and join the RCMP. "But, it ended up being so much more than I expected."

Harnum, who is based in Cranberry Portage, more than 720 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, Man., is a peer-to-peer advisor with the RCMP and has been involved in helping couples cope with the issues that lead to violence. He is currently working with schoolchildren in his community.

He expected that, but says he didn't foresee supporting his RCMP colleagues with personal and professional challenges.

"I fully believe that things happen for a reason and we are where we're supposed to be to help people," says Harnum.

Life-saving response

Cst. Andrew Cowper can relate to being in the right place at the right time — and with the right skills.

In July, Cowper was near the shore of Labrador's Lake Melville when he became aware of a man in distress — more than 300 metres offshore.

An experienced swimmer who already knew advanced aquatic rescue techniques before joining the RCMP, Cowper sprang into action.

"I was able to walk about half-way out, up to my chest, since the water is very shallow, and swam the rest of the way out," says Cowper, who was eventually able to haul the man to shore with the assistance of a rescue boat.

He says he always wanted a career helping people and the RCMP was the perfect fit.

"My parents always encouraged me, when I was younger, with the swimming and lifeguarding because they knew it was something I would carry with me," says Cowper. "And I knew I wanted a job where I could take these skills and put them to good use."

Working with vulnerable clients

Like police officers, social workers use their training to help society's most vulnerable: children, victims of abuse and those with substance addictions.

Cst. Erin Power knows that better than most.

Power began her career as a social worker and now works with the Specialized Investigative team in Iqaluit, Nunavut.

She says her previous career allowed her to use and develop interview and investigative skills that are a key part of her current role.

"The fact that I'm able to go into these child-exploitation files is in part due to the fact that I saw a lot as a social worker," she says. "I also approached people as a social worker and now as a police officer with respect and treated them all with dignity."

After four years in the RCMP, Power sees herself as a bridge between both professions.

"Although both jobs are similar, they also come with their own challenges and I think I'm in a position to understand that and explain it to others," says Power.

Sgt. Lori Stewart works to encourage people to apply to the RCMP.

"The RCMP has so much to offer," says Stewart, the non-commissioned officer in charge of recruiting in Ontario. "But those who have skills that can be used on the job, whether they come from the military or jobs like accounting, it can get them were they want to go faster in the RCMP, depending on their career goals."

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