LAC LA BICHE - Lac La Biche County, in collaboration with Portage College, will run the first post-secondary training program geared toward Peace Officer education and development in the province starting Aug. 23.
The eight-week program will be offered through Portage’s Continuing Education department and is the result of a nearly two-year effort by Supt. Chris Clark , Manager of Lac La Biche County Enforcement Services.
“This type of program is a huge accomplishment for a small town and something that we should be proud of,” said Clark. “Personally, for myself I believe law enforcement officers with any agency need to constantly train and develop their skills. The life and safety of the public and officers hinge on their skill set and their ability to protect their community and themselves.”
The results of these efforts have led to the development of a level 1 Community Peace Officer Induction Program (CPOIP) sanctioned by Alberta Justice and the Solicitor General — the first of its kind in the province. “This will allow students to have the highest level of training possible while ensuring they have a high skill level upon completion,” said Clark.
Candidates accepted into the program will receive training in traffic stop safety, control tactics, arrest procedures, community-based problem solving, ethics, communication, speed measurement and emergency vehicle operations, among much more.
“Offering training in an environment that is real and training that is pertinent accomplishes this,” he says, adding, the close proximity to the Lac La Biche Protective Services Building will allow students participating in the field practicum to take part on ride-alongs, and observe the operations side and view real-world experiences.
Making it happen
The course was pursued and developed by Lac La Biche County’s Enforcement Services Department and two specialized instructors hired by the municipality after council and administration saw a gap in peace officer training. Clark says, the County saw this as an opportunity to be industry leaders and partner with Portage College.
Smaller municipalities often require additional law enforcement to support and supplement rural RCMP detachments. This extra support usually come in the form of municipally hired by peace officers. In Lac La Biche, the County employs 11 peace officers to keep up with law enforcement.
Clark says, the CPOIP program will also help support other communities in the province where peace officers work and are needed by providing well-rounded quality training to officers who can better meet the demands of the field. Individuals wanting to complete the course will not be required to be working for a municipality or agency.
Currently, peace officer training is offered by the province, the City of Edmonton, the City of Calgary and Alberta Health Services. However, Clark notes, that “Edmonton, Calgary and AHS only train their internal staff. They don’t train other agency staff.”
Individuals pursuing training outside of an agency can apply for the program offered by the province, but applicants are usually added to a growing wait list, Clark says.
Building the program
Before Lac La Biche County and Portage College formed an agreement to offer this “one-of-a-kind” training program, the County had already started training peace officers in the fall of 2020 and has provided instruction to 119 individuals and other law enforcement officers who have traveled from across Alberta to take part.
With the successful collaboration between the County and college so far, Clark hopes that the CPOIP will be able to expand and train more peace officers to help supply the demand with quality candidates. One big step towards this with come later in August, when Portage’s Lac La Biche Campus will welcome 12 new peace officer recruits who are already employed by municipalities within Alberta, but have been awaiting training.
Eventually the program will have the capacity to train up to 60 students per course, However, previous COVID-19 restrictions capped the enrolment size when the plans were being finalized earlier in the year.
Finding the perfect partnership
In order to translate the predominately practical program to an academic setting, Clark has worked closely with Dr. Donna Feledichuk, who is the Dean of the Faculty of Paramedicine and the Manager of Continuing Education at Portage College.
Feledichuk, who has help develop other experience driven courses such as paramedicine, says her main focus is to assist the County with the logistics and to monitor the success of the peace officer program from the College’s perspective. The partnership over CPOIP has been guaranteed to run over the next three years on a trial basis until the spring of 2023.
"The County owns the curriculum,” said Feledichuk. “We supply the space. We supply assistance as they need it with curriculum development and curriculum design, and we will provide a parchment at the end for the participant.”
Feledichuk also adds that participants will be able to request proof of enrolment and attendance through the registrar's office, which she says is a requirement sometimes requested by employers and is just one example of the added benefits of the partnership for students.
Balancing the books
Lac La Biche County is not only the owner of the CPOIP program but is also financially backing the development of the peace officer pilot project.
Until now, the program has run a $131,247 deficit. However, if projection costs and enrolment targets are met, the following courses the CPOIP program could see a humble profit of $110,000 at the end of 2021, which is anticipated to increase to $230,000 by 2022.
Generated profits from the peace officer program will be shared between Portage College and Lac La Biche County once operating and equipment costs or accounted for, said Clark. Current arrangements will see Portage College take 20 per cent of profits with Lac La Biche County adding the remaining 80 per cent to the municipality’s accumulated surplus.
At the end of 2023, the CPOIP program and the partnership between the college and the County will be reviewed. The two parties will evaluate the success of the program and discuss opportunities for course expansion. However, the collaborating organizations are already envisioning what the program may look like in the future.
“Our goal is to train 60 students a year as Peace Officers and train 200 law enforcement officers annually in other disciplines,” said Clark. “We are also examining the possibility to have this as a credited program.”