'This is not Police Academy'
The students are sitting at tables in the library, their attention captivated by the slideshow at the front of the room.
The instructor is narrating, pointing out the scene in which the bad guys are there just to cause trouble.
He points out police in the crowd, trying to control the anger that had spilled into downtown Vancouver streets in June 1994 after the Vancouver Canucks lost to the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.
The instructor moves on to other slides of a similar riot in Vancouver in June 2010 — again after the Canucks lost the deciding game of the Stanley Cup championship.
This is not typical classroom discussion, but these students at Brock middle school aren’t average Kamloops teens taking advantage of freedom during spring break.
They are 22 young people with their eyes on graduation in the next year or two — and they are taking part in the annual Kamloops Youth Academy, organized by the Kamloops RCMP and the Kamloops-Thompson school district.
The academy is giving them a taste of the careers in law enforcement they plan to pursue.
That’s why, when walking through the halls where bunk beds are in place — boys one side of the school, girls on the other — one notices some mattresses have been tossed off the frames.
Something wasn’t done right.
Maybe the sleeping bags weren’t folded properly or the T-shirts weren’t on their hangers.
Whatever it was, the bed was tossed and the students have to fix it.
“Day one was a little bit worse,” Const. Rupert Meinke said of the condition of the “barracks” on Tuesday, March 19, the day KTW visited the five-day, 24-hour-a-day RCMP camp for students in grades 11 and 12.
This is the third year the camp has been held, but the first time it has coincided with spring break.
The students, however, have been planning for it since October, when registration opened, making sure they had reference letters from teachers submitted, ensuring their school records are spotless — no bullying, fighting or other “stuff we don’t like,” Meinke said — and polishing off their essays on why they are interested in policing.
Once they had that documentation approved, usually by Christmas, they faced passing the physical test, which required them to run 1.5 miles in less than 15 minutes and do at least 30 pushups and sit-ups in a minute each.
“Then, they’re in,” Meinke said, “and we give them a real-life experience of what policing is all about.”
Six officers are with the students for the week, with others coming to teach classes and share their own experiences.
The officer giving the talk about the riots, for example, is Kamloops Rural RCMP Const. Jason Epp, a veteran who specializes in tactical operations and has been involved in five riots.
There are also hands-on sessions as instructors put the kids through routines that range from self-defence to making an arrest.
Watching it all is Greg Howard, SD73’s district principal for trades and technologies.
Howard brought the camp to the attention of Const. Cheryl Bush several years ago when he accompanied some Kamloops students to a similar camp in Vernon. From there, Bush took it to then-superintendent Yves Lacasse and it became a reality.
Howard, who will retire at the end of the school year, said he simply told Bush “we need to do this here,” a belief he said was fostered not only by the educational opportunities it provides students, but because it gives the youth a chance to see officers as human beings.
He is delighted one of the graduates of the first camp has recently applied for a policing job and expects many more who have gone through the program will do likewise.
Meinke agrees, noting that, each year, one student usually drops out, yet all students remained after Day 2.
Parents aren’t allowed to visit and can only attend the Friday, March 22, graduation ceremony.
Each student pays $250 for the camp but, Meinke noted, the cost per student is more than that. Three meals a day for five days is about $200 each, he said. Students also receive track suits, a T-shirt and a cap, a combined $100 value.
The school board provides the building, while the catering company Linda and Lynda, which also has the contract for the kitchen at Westsyde secondary, does the cooking. Other supporters make sure the camp is a success.
Northern Trailer pays for the track suits, Kamloops Crime Stoppers donates money, Panago Pizza contributes some meals, Tim Hortons caters the graduation ceremony, the Kamloops Sports Council donates the beds and Don’s Towing provides a car that can be used for a demonstration of a jaws-of-life rescue.
Kamloops Fire Rescue and B.C. Ambulance also lend expertise to ensure students get a complete first-response experience.
Meinke agreed with Howard that one of the best side effects of the camp is the opportunity the students get to see real police officers and hear their stories.
“We had one student tell us he had seen Police Academy and that’s how he knew about policing,” Meinke said.
“He was joking, of course — except he really was just half-joking because that’s all he knew.
“Well, it’s not like Police Academy.”