LAC LA BICHE - The second class to take part in the Community Peace Officer Induction Program (CPOIP) in Lac La Biche County kicked off in August. The group of 15 students from around the province are all taking part in a gruelling 11-week program to become Level 1 Community Peace Officers in Alberta, according to the lead instructor and the County’s manager of enforcement services Chris Clark.
The course is approved by Alberta Justice and Solicitor General's Training Academy and is a joint operation between Lac La Biche County, Portage College and veteran peace officers who are guiding the students, Clark explained. Last October, the first class graduated from the unique program, with a group of eight students graduating and becoming part of the 32nd class of peace officers province-wide.
After receiving permanent funding and support, the program will continue and this year’s graduates will be inducted as the 36th class of peace officers in Alberta. It’s an achievement that Clark says he’s proud to be a part of.
“This is a first and it’s never been done in a municipality… It's definitely something incredible that our residents here should be really happy to have. To see people coming from all over Western Canada to Lac La Biche to be able to train,” he says adds to the local accomplishment.
The first week of training, which started in August, included an introduction to the role of peace officers, theoretical lessons, strategic communications, fitness drills, health and safety and control tactics—all components that are required for graduation, said Clark.
The 11-week program includes over 200 hours of practicing various hands-on practical roles and responsibilities to prepare officers, along with over 150 hours of in-classroom theory and examinations.
“We have a combination of theory and practice and about 40 per cent of their course is theory-based, and the other 60 per cent is all practical-based, out in the field and doing tasks.”
The 44-day, 10-hour-per-day program also includes 40 hours of shotgun training, 20 hours of personal fitness tests and appearance lessons required for all peace officers when on the job.
A large and vital component is legal studies, which Clark says will teach them “when to arrest, when to release, how to arrest and how people get released.”
Additionally, three will be 40 hours spent on how to drive and operate a patrol vehicle, and 30 hours of LiDAR, which is used for traffic enforcement and violations, Clark added.
The program also focuses on all the potential roles community peace officers can encounter in the field, said Clark. And for many who will be working in various communities across Alberta with ethnically diverse backgrounds, cultural bias and sensitivity training is a requirement.
“Learning about different ethnic backgrounds and learning how to change biases so that it changes their approach and how they deal with subjects when communicating,” Clark says is a vital part of the program.
Future peace officers
For the recruits enrolled this year, well over a week into the program, it has been a learning experience filled with real-world applications, said Hussien Ismail.
“The first week was definitely a good one. We learned a lot of new skills that will definitely be used,” he said.
Ismail is originally from Edmonton, but upon completion in November, he plans to stay in Lac La Biche County and serve as a school resource officer. It’s an opportunity he is excited about.
“With my past experience working with kids, I know I’m definitely going to use my skills to help drive them and help them succeed. So that definitely will help when I become the school resource officer.”
Recruit Lara Wells will be returning to the municipality of Jasper after she completes her training. She says the instructions have been great role models.
“I feel like it's important to give back to the community… the instructors are all very knowledgeable and it's great to learn from people with such a variety of experience going through the program,” said Wells.
Another recruit this year is John Day from Winnipeg, Man. Traditionally, communities and municipalities requiring a peace officer fund the program with the intention of the officer working in the area. But for Day, he will have an opportunity to find placement in any community that is hiring, upon completion. It’s an opportunity he finds very attractive being new to Alberta.
“I am a self-funded student, so I will be finding a position by the time this course ends and look for a position in Alberta and serving the community here,” Day says.
The program is being taught in the County's Protective Services building on Beaver Hill Road, which opened last January. Last year, the first class was taught at the Portage College Campus alongside various outdoor spaces. This year, the multi-million dollar state-of-the-art facility is able to support all the training, tactical and classroom needs in a centralized location, Clark explained.
“We’re happy to do this in our building. It makes it a lot easier functionality-wise and equipment-wise for us to do it here.”
The 36th Level 1 Peace Officer class is expected to graduate on Nov. 3 at a special ceremony held jointly at the Protective Service building and Portage College, said Clark.