My First Year of Policing – Recruit and On the Job Training
People often comment that one’s character may be predetermined, but my view is that it definitely can be shaped by your environment and other external stimulation’s. For me the RCMP training division impacted on mine; through tough-minded discipline and relentless physical, psychological and academic training. Being a successful applicant for membership in the RCMP it was necessary for me to undergo basic training of a year’s duration. This education in life was broken into 6 months of basic training and 6 months of on-the-job mentoring to learn practical police operations.
I was part of Troop 23/1969 that formed with 32 members upon our arrival in Regina Saskatchewan in February 1969 – a very cold place in the bowls of a stormy prairie winter. We eventually graduated with 28 of our new friends and colleagues.
(my photos are in some cases digital reproductions of old 35 mm slides – sorry for the quality)
Initially, training was focused on discipline and physical conditioning then academic subjects with practical skills were progressively introduced. As a young man, the introduction to this routine, discipline and physical conditioning was difficult and challenging while at the same time very exciting. Can you imagine having early morning outdoor parades for roll call when the weather was many degrees below zero, after a very short nights sleep?
There was a fixation on our barracks sleeping quarters, tidiness and the presentation. Every morning there was barracks inspection – it was dreaded because something would be found wrong and you were made to account for it and likely disciplined. Either individually or the whole troop – just to prove a point that it’s all teamwork. The bed had to be made just a certain way with no wrinkles and set out correctly. Clothes had to be hung in the closet in a certain order, pressed and fine. Books needed to be orderly on your desk and hats on pillows just so.
It was all such a pain in the butt, we couldn’t see the reasoning, but….it did teach discipline, I guess. We were cleaning maniacs; it seemed like everything was always requiring cleaning, over and over again – day in and day out. Check out the barracks and our life in pictures – never again.
The curriculum covered some 85 subjects that involved such matters as Federal statutes, criminal code, regulations of the Force, giving evidence in court, report writing, typing where I achieved 35 words a minute on an old-style typewriter, first aid, firearms instruction with revolvers & rifles to target standards, swimming & water rescue and unarmed combat, arrest procedures and defensive driving to name a few. Let us not forget the relentless drill lessons – march, march, march boys. It was very much a semi-military environment with marching drills and marching parades daily, saluting of commissioned offers and learning to operate in a team environment.
What sticks out for me was the physical aspects of unarmed combat, various control holds to apply and the defensive tactics for personal protection and arrest procedures. Defensive driving was grueling but useful to learn how to operate police vehicles correctly and in high-speed pursuits and vehicle stops. The academic side was just reading and studying with the worry that tests might not be passed and you would be discharged for failing standards. Perhaps this is where I also got to understand the meaning of dress, grooming and the importance of working together to achieve outcomes. It is funny that if you were pushed to achieve what was required to do on your own I am sure most would quit but in a team environment others help you to achieve and keep the team going.
With a young fit body and constant exercise, the routine visits to the mess hall were anticipated and large quantities of food devoured. There wasn’t much time for meals so we learned quickly to devour our allotment with speed – not good for the digestion I am sure. Mess food if you have ever experienced it fills you up but gets to be very routine and boring after 6 months. Outings on weekends when you might get a “pass” always included a feast at a local hotel or restaurant. The Vagabond Inn was a regular hang out for the troop to have beers and a feed.
The pedantic nature of the training staff on how myself and my other troop mates maintained and wore our uniforms had a lasting impression on me. This is where I learned to wear the day-to-day “service order no 1” uniform as well as the “review order”, the famous red coat seen in many Hollywood Mounties. It’s nice to now be retired in shorts and a tee shirt – with this as only a memory.