WATCH ABOVE: The Edmonton Police Service invited members of the media to experience part of its training process. Four Global News team members took part. Watch Tom Vernon’s report.
EDMONTON – Becoming a police officer is no easy feat. That’s what I learned on Monday, when — for the first time — the Edmonton Police Service opened up one of its training facilities to show a select few members of the media some of what new recruits go through.
There was a mix of excitement, fear and trepidation as I arrived at the facility, along with reporter Tom Vernon, weather expert Kevin O’Connell, and traffic specialist Daintre Christensen. Donuts and coffee awaited us, but most fought the temptation for fear of it coming back with a vengeance during the impending training.
The safety talk alone was enough to make my stomach a little queasy.
“You look nervous,” said Acting Sgt. Curtis Auget, his eyes boring into me.
My panic-stricken face must have given me away.
It was soon time to put that nervous energy to work.
First, a tutorial in handcuffing technique.
The scenario: a break and enter suspect was on the premises. Our mission: to apprehend and arrest him.
We had to go through the proper police protocol of first identifying ourselves and telling the suspect (in the most intimidating way possible) he was under arrest. Then after multiple warnings, we could send in the canine, who was raring to go.
The “suspect,” a member of the police force, was of course wearing a padded suit. But that didn’t make the dog’s attack seem any less forgiving. After the handler removed the dog from the suspect, we stepped in and did the rest.
Next up: the obstacle course.
It was like a park on steroids, taking some of those activities you may have enjoyed as a child and turning them into a potential heart attack.
WATCH: I strapped on a GoPro to give you a look at what we had to do while wearing a 15 pound vest.
We weren’t done yet. Barely breathing, we were given a simulation gun, fake pepper spray, and outfitted with what’s called a “stress vest.” It lets police send you a 4,500 volt zap to stimulate pain. We were then blindfolded and led into a room.
When the blindfold was taken off, a suspect began yelling obscenities and coming towards you. My anxiety level was definitely at a high. Especially as I embarrassingly struggled to get my gun out of its holster, allowing the “armed suspect” to come within feet of me.
With all the adrenaline running through me, I didn’t even feel the zap of getting “shot.” I managed to eventually shoot the suspect “dead.” In real life, I wouldn’t have stood a chance.
It reinforced what the trainers told us about the effect high-intensity stress can sometimes have on our memory, a message they tried to drive home throughout the training.
After we tested out a pistol, they brought out the big guns — carbines, to be exact — the kind the tactical team would use.
The training we went through is just a taste of a new recruit’s experience. It follows a rigorous eight-stage application process, which includes a written and comprehension exam, a polygraph test, and a physical.
Upwards of 500 people may apply in a year. This year, only 120 will be hired. The number of new hires is actually slightly above average to account for a bit of an increase in retirements.
The EPS’ peak year for recruitment was in 2008, when 200 officers were hired. That’s also the year recruits were brought in from the U.K.
The Edmonton Police Service is recruiting across Canada. They’re especially looking out east, where some provinces aren’t hiring police officers at all right now.
“We don’t care where you live, we don’t discriminate if you’re from the east or the west, and you have the right stuff, we want you,” said Acting Sgt. Curtis Auget with EPS Recruiting.
“We’re looking for people that are energetic, dynamic, obviously we want someone that holds integrity in high esteem, and obviously fitness is a big key component.”
It doesn’t stop when you join the force — there are mandatory fitness tests each year.
While I may not have what it takes to make the cut, you might be just what the force is looking for. if you’re interested in applying to be an Edmonton police officer you can find out more information at joineps.ca.
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