Over 130 students from nine area high schools applied to take part in the police week event, but due to space and time restrictions, only 73 were selected.
“In some schools they had to write an essay to get in,” says community services officer Const. Jason Coombs, who was leading one of three groups of teenagers through the precinct.
“Maybe next year we might even have to do two days of it. …
“They’re keen and hopefully someday they’ll be sitting in our classrooms.”
While the RNC has offered similar programs in the past, it was usually on a per-request basis from individual schools. They decided to take a different approach this year in an effort to streamline the event into a one-day affair, thereby reducing demand on individual departments.
Students had the chance to get up close and personal with the K-9 and mounted units, tried their hand at fingerprinting with the identification section, learned lessons from the explosives disposal unit, visited the shooting range, and observed handcuffing and use-of-force techniques demonstrated by the current class of recruits.
Cadets Gillian Peddigrew and Alex O’Keefe say the training program is both highly demanding and rewarding.
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Peddigrew said.
“It’s very demanding, but I think everyone in this program has surprised themselves with their perseverance and they’re doing things they never thought they could do in terms of exercise, mental capacity and exhaustion level.”
Adds O’Keefe, “It’s a strenuous program. There’s a lot of work. Every bit you put in, you’re getting way more out of it. I would recommend it to anyone.”
One of the students, Brandon Summers, is just 15, so he’s still not settled on a career path. It may involve following in the footsteps of his father, Sgt. Mike Summers.
While he was most looking forward to the K-9 and mounted unit sessions, Brandon was eager to get a better appreciation of what day-to-day policing entails.
“It’s a lot better understanding of how every day goes, and it’s not always on the run,” he says. “You do learn more about each department, and it’s pretty cool.”
Coombs says that was a secondary goal of the event, to foster a better understanding of a police officer’s duties.
“Maybe if they don’t join to be a police officer, if they’re at a party or in a situation … they can turn to their friend and say, ‘The constable is just trying to do their job, listen to them,’ because they know what we do and they have a little hands-on experience.”