A partnership between the Vancouver Island University criminology program and the Port Alberni RCMP detachment gives interns real-life police experience, and the RCMP a look at potential recruits, RCMP Cpl. Jen Allan said.
Four RCMP detachments participate in the program with VIU: Port Alberni, Nanaimo, Oceanside and Cowichan.
The arrangement sees selected fourth-year criminology students posted to RCMP detachments for four months. Students are exposed to different RCMP departments and an array of duties during their stay. “They’re exposed to regular duties that police officers do in any detachment,” Allan said.
The partnership in Port Alberni started last year when VIU grad Andrew Ratte, who is a local resident, spent four months here. “We had an excellent experience with him here last year,” Allan said. “I understand he’s still in the application process to the RCMP.”
This year, interns Allison McBride and Taylor Galeazzi have been posted to the Port Alberni RCMP detachment.
Students benefit from the partnership by getting practical experience and a glance at real-world RCMP policing. But the RCMP benefits as well. “We want to recruit people. We hope that recruits seek a career with the RCMP when they’re done,” Allan said. “One day we hope to sign them up.”
McBride grew up in Esquimalt and attended Esquimalt High School, graduating in 2009. She is set to graduate from VIU’s criminology program this spring.
Port Alberni isn’t unfamiliar to McBride. High school sports games brought her this way, and she passed through the Valley on the way to see her sister who lived in Tofino.
“I knew about the internship in Port Alberni from Andrew, who was here last year,” McBride said. “I wanted the chance to go there.”
McBride attended a week-long Greater Victoria Police Camp in 2009, and the experience resonated with her. The camp was like a mini RCMP depot with physical training, marching, classes and police situation simulations. “The thing I remember the most was that when we were able to do the simulations and take charge we were praised afterward. I was 17 years old and timid so that was huge for me,” McBride said.
One of McBride’s projects while in Port Alberni is to coordinate the first Central Island RCMP Youth Camp this summer.
The camp allows high school students who have an interest in law-enforcement careers the chance to see what training conditions are like and get some hands-on experience. This year’s camp will be bigger with the addition of participants from Oceanside and Nanaimo, she said.
McBride plans to submit her applications to the RCMP and Saanich Police when she graduates. If she becomes an officer she will be the first member of her family to do so, she said.
“My parents weren’t police officers. But they always supported me with this. They know that this fits my personality,” she said.
Galeazzi grew up in Woss, which has a population of 200. He’s not an officer yet but he resembles one out of uniform. “Being a police officer is always something I wanted to be. I like the diversity the job offers,” he said.
He graduated from North Island High School in Port McNeill in 2010 and headed straight for VIU. He will apply to join the RCMP when he graduates this spring.
At the Port Alberni detachment, McBride and Galeazzi were working with the ‘ident’ section on a recent Friday afternoon, and getting some good natured ribbing from officers who work in the forensic department. “You’re working in the very coolest section of the RCMP,” one officer said jokingly. “Put some sunglasses on.”
Ident, the police dog section and Emergency Response Team are popular draws for interns. “Those are the areas of policing people think are sexy,” Allan said. “My section— community policing— is not.”
Galeazzi will be working on the School Action For Emergencies plan for the next four months. The project consists of a computer database for each of the Alberni Valley’s schools that contains information about their layouts, entrances and exit routes, electrical plans as well as other logistical information. The plan will be a critical part of a police response in the event of a major incident, Allan said.
Galeazzi says he’s drawn to the general duty section of policing the most. “It seems like you never know what you’ll be doing or where you’ll be doing it. It’s something different every day, and I like that,” he said.
All of the experience with the Port Alberni detachment is valuable, Galeazzi said. He especially appreciates the candour and help he receives from officers.
“They want to teach you so that you know why it is they do what they do,” he said. “My experience here has made me realize that this is what I want to do with my life.”