[identity profile] nos4a2no9.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] ds_workshop
Hello everyone! I'm Nos, your friendly resident Canadian liaison, and I'm here to kick off a shiny new round of [livejournal.com profile] ds_workshop posts with a discussion of everyone's favourite para-military force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Due to a number of reasons that don't bear exploring at this juncture (except they kinda do, so I'll go into them a little later) the RCMP is conducting an aggressive and unprecedented recruitment drive at Canadian high schools, colleges and universities. I happened to get wind of an RCMP Information Night at my Olde Institution of Higher Learning, and like a good dS fangirl I had to stop by. And take notes. And then share my findings with you.

I'm sure you all understand the basics of Mountie history and how the organization works in Canada. I'll be providing some of that information here, but I'm hardly better able to explain than the Wikipedia article on the subject. If you want a true primer on the Gendarmerie Royale du Canada I'd suggest you start there: I'm here mainly to fill you in on some fun and surprising details I learned courtesy of the Information Night. And away we go!

The Basics

Aside from being Benton Fraser's employer-cum-obsession, the RCMP provides municipal policing services to hundreds of communities across Canada. Because Canada is such a large country (geographically speaking) with such a tiny population (particularly outside of Ontario and Quebec) most provinces cannot support their own system of community policing. There are RCMP detachments in every single Canadian territory and province, from Newfoundland to the Yukon to British Columbia. Major metropolitan cities like Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City and Toronto have their own municipal forces and the Ontario Provincial Police, or the OPP, provide regular policing services in Ontario, but other than that the RCMP are the face of law and order in Canada.

The RCMP also have expansive powers at the federal level to conduct anti-terrorist investigations, provide security for governmental figures and generally behave a lot like the Canadian version of the FBI, but with funnier hats. The division between federal and provincial policing seems a bit odd, considering that the RCMP provide both, but in Canada's most populous province, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) handle day-to-day policing matters while plainclothes RCMP officers handle the big kidnapping/anti-drug/anti-terrorism/organized crime cases. So...Fraser would be a Fibbie to a city beat cop working in Toronto. *boggles*

Right now there are approximately 25,000 active RCMP officers either serving in uniform or in plainclothes/administrative roles, or working overseas or in the United States. However, in the next five years the Mounties will lose nearly 7,000 people, or 33% of their workforce, due to baby-boomer retirements, and new changes in policy (like the new backup requirements in remote/isolated northern postings) are putting a tremendous strain on existing resources. Hence the RCMP's aggressive recruitment drives.

So you want to be a Mountie, eh?

In the next year the RCMP will hire and train 3,000 new recruits. The application requirements and hiring procedure have not changed dramatically in over 30 years: what holds true in 2007 would have applied to Fraser in the late 1970s/early 1980s. There are some new changes coming in that will affect the way RCMP officers are recruited and trained, and I'll note that as the topic crops up.

Potential RCMP recruits must be at least 18 years old, a Canadian citizen, and possess a valid driver's license. They must also have a high school diploma or a GED (a course you can take as an adult to finish your required coursework and earn a high school diploma). And that "must be at least 18 years of age" requirement is the minimum: there is no maximum age limit. One troop last winter had a 52 year-old cadet in it, so...well, if Kowalski really wanted to be a Mountie, it's possible :-)

If a potential recruit meets those basic requirements they may then write the entrance exam, which is a three-hour aptitude test that examines a potential officer's proficiency in basic math, English and communications, logic and observational skills. After this exam new recruits must pass a physical test called PARE, which basically consists of being able to complete a "pursuit simulation" obstacle course in 4min and 45seconds.

Once they've passed the two exams and a head-to-toe physical, the recruits submit to an extensive background check and, as a final stage, they must take a two-hour polygraph test. The whole intake process takes about a year to complete, after which the successful applicants attend a 24 week training program in Regina, Saskatchewan. "Depot" (pronounced "dep-oh") is a bootcamp for police officers where they will learn skills ranging from forensic science and investigative techniques to personal combat, weapons handling and marksmanship, Canadian legal procedure, driving, horsemanship, etc. Unlike American police officers, Mounties are trained from day one to become detectives, and they are expected to be able to handle every aspect of an investigation.

What's with Depot?

The RCMP has included a Cadet Diary on their website which takes you through the day-to-day experience of Depot, and that's a fairly good resource if you want to understand what the experience is like. Basically, it's an intense period of mental and physical training that will, in the end, produce a fully-functioning Mountie (complete with kung-fu grip!). Depot is one of the highest-ranked security/police training programs in the world, second only to Quantico, and cadets are subject to a battery of tests, challenges and training simulations that will shape them into fully-functioning investigative officers even before they graduate.

New cadets are assigned to a "troop" of 18-32 other new recruits, with whom they remain for the entire 24 week period. (Side note: so when Fraser says he was "the head of his class," he's talking about his 32-person troop, not the traditional hundred-plus person graduating class from a US police academy. Not as impressive, Fraser).

There are new troops being created every week as waves of new recruits come in to Depot, and each troop forms a close-knit group that passes or fails together. For example, if one cadet can't pass the required physical endurance tests, the rest of the troop is expected to work with the cadet until s/he can meet the performance standards and move on to the next stage of evaluation. Ditto for helping with forensic homework, interview techniques, etc. Gus the Recruitment Mountie told us that these 32-person troops are what helps instill cooperation and camaraderie in the RCMP, and they take the principle of "fitting in" quite seriously. Depot dropouts are rare but when they happen, the entire troop is punished for letting their teammate slip through the cracks.

One of the surprising details I learned is that each graduating troop publishes a yearly newsletter that keeps everyone apprised of what each member has accomplished. So twenty years after graduation from Depot, Fraser would still receive newsletters about the activities of his former classmates - postings, awards and citations, injuries sustained in the field, marriages and childbirth, etc.

Okay, back to the Depot experience. The RCMP traditionally segregated the troops along gender lines. Back when Gus was at Depot in the early 1980s, right when Fraser would have been training, there were all-male and all-female troops. Now the troops are integrated but I failed to ask what the experience is like for female cadets. (Thatcher! Maggie! What was it like for them?).

Cadets must also pay their own way at Depot, which is another detail that I hadn't been aware of. Now, the RCMP functions like a para-military force, and cadets do not pay for the education they receive at Depot. Meals during the week are paid for, as is housing in the barracks. However, there is no stipend awarded to new recruits, and so any personal expenses incurred during the 24 week period (meals outside the canteen and on the weekend, drycleaning, personal hygiene products, etc) are not covered. And if recruits have expenses at home (rent, mortgage payments, if they're supporting a spouse/partner or any children) they won't have any kind of an income for the four-month training period at Depot. The recruiter warned us that we would need about $3000 in savings before entering Depot to cover personal costs (and that figure came from a guy in the audience who had graduated from Depot in 2006, but he acknowledged some of that went to beer money). I imagine someone like Fraser, who is intensely frugal, could have gotten by in the early 1980s with around $800 for the four-month period, but he would still need to have some money saved up before heading to Regina. Ditto for Maggie, Turnbull, Thatcher et al. The good news, we were informed, is that because Depot is a schedule-2 learning institution, RCMP cadets are eligible for federal student loans and have been since the 1970s. So there is a cost associated with Depot that might have put it out of reach for 18 year-old Fraser (unless he had some way of covering his expenses beforehand).

Do you really keep all of that in your hat?

I suppose this is a good time to talk about yearly income. As of 2001, the average annual salary for a brand-new depot graduate os around $44,513 Cdn. More experienced officers make about $72,125/year. Fraser's not exactly starving, in other words. With overtime (more and more commonplace now given staffing shortfalls) an experienced officer could expect to make almost $100,000/year. I was shocked at that number and suspected Gus the Recruitment Mountie was highballing it a bit to impress the potential recruits in the room, but it seems reasonable given the salary grades and the need to pay out overtime to maintain staffing levels in various postings.

And what is that you do, exactly?

According to Gus, there are over 500 distinct careers within the RCMP, and that includes everything from Liaison Officer (eee!) to Depot Instructor to Media Analyst to VIP Security Detail to Scuba Dive-Team Leader. After their initial three-year commitment to the RCMP expires after graduation from Depot, Mounties are given an opportunity to specialize in one of the areas mentioned above or, if they're content to remain as Constables, continue to work as community policing officers. My sense is that ambitious young officers like Thatcher would have applied to one of the more advanced training positions where she would climb the RCMP administrative ranks to Inspector. Someone like Fraser, who wants to work in the field and isn't concerned with specializing, would not have pursued those options for more expansive skills training and promotion. And, oddly, that's cool in the RCMP. Despite their military trappings, there isn't a lot of emphasis put on rank among field officers. Gus the Recruitment Mountie had been on the force for 25 years and was still a Constable, and he said that's how it is for most people who don't care to specialize or work overseas.

Speaking of other posting opportunities, Mounties are also able to apply for overseas work in Consulates and Embassies in Europe, Africa, Australia and the US. There are currently RCMP officers in Iraq and Afghanistan who are training new police forces, but most request liaison positions in the United States or the United Kingdom. Liaison officers, you guessed it, work with local and national police to protect Canadian citizens and Canada's interests in the international law enforcement arena.

RCMP officers are also, according to Gus, freely permitted to request a posting anywhere in Canada. They're asked to submit a list of up to 25 ideal locations in Canada (or overseas, or in the United States, depending on their position) and usually the RCMP is able to accommodate them with over 80% being awarded their first-choice posting. I have heard reports that contradict this, particularly in the case of First Nations/Inuit officers who are posted to northern Canada or small rural reserves no matter what they actually request, but I think Gus was putting the best face on things because he didn't want new recruits to think they'd be posted to Inuvik right out of Depot.

Cadets receive notice of their first posting about a month before they graduate Depot. Once they graduate they are sworn in as RCMP members and head off to their new detachment learn the ropes. Each new Constable is assigned a detachment coach (or a "field coach"), who serves as a mentor and helps them acclimatize to the job. This period lasts as long as the detachment coach deems necessary. (Seriously, guys, I'd love to read a story where Fraser is responsible for mentoring a young green officer. He'd be the WORST field coach in the world! "Oh, and here is a piece of gum. Make sure you lick it thoroughly to ensure you've properly absorbed the evidence.")

Well, that's the RCMP training and recruitment process in a nutshell. There's another information session being held in early March, and since I had to duck out of this one a bit early I hope to attend and actually ask some questions during the Q&A. If you've got a burning question about the RCMP, please ask it in the comments below, and if I can't find an answer I'll ask at the next info session. I hope I've provided at least a few new details and tasty facts here that will, hopefully, lead to some plot bunnies.

Happy writing, folks! And many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] kill_claudio for her very able beta assistance.
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