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Learning to adapt and persevere


September 3, 2014
By Corrie Sloot

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary welcomed 12 new constables to its ranks in late August.

Touted as the oldest police force in North America, the RNC’s roots date back to 1729.

In addressing the new constables, RNC Chief Bill Janes spoke of the intensive year of training the new recruits went through. They can be confident, Janes said, that they possess the knowledge, skills and ability to carry out their responsibilities and serve the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

However, he reminded the new constables that their education is far from over.

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“Next week you will come under the guidance of a coach officer who will help you to put into practice all that you have learned and will teach you many new lessons. In policing you will need to be open to learning and building new skills throughout your career,” Janes said.

Policing is a career where officers are expected to live by the laws they enforce, added Janes.

They are expected to be courageous and, while others can choose not to act when a crime is in progress or in a circumstance involving personal risk, must act to defend others and the law.

While officers are expected to treat all citizens, regardless of their station in life, with respect and dignity, Janes said, at times this will be challenging; dealing with someone who has committed a crime against a vulnerable person, for example.

“Your sworn obligation is and always will be, to seek the truth. We are never to act as judge and jury.”

The new recruits will learn quickly, Janes said, that standing up and making an ethical decision is not always the easiest or most popular path.

“As police officers, people will turn to you during crisis and conflict for guidance and leadership. Never compromise your principles,” he advised.

In her speech on behalf of the graduating class, Cst. Stephanie Pelley drew a quote from J.D. Houston: “If you want something in your life you’ve never had, you’ll have to do something you’ve never done.”

Pelley said that she and her classmates learned that there were many things they had never done before. None of the recruits were mentally or physically ready for the demanding physical training, she said.

“None of us had ever ran up the side of Quidi Vidi Lake (in St. John’s) carrying their 200 pound classmate, or for two cadets, they’d never knelt by the side of Quidi Vidi begging the ducks for water.”

Although the runs never got any easier, she said, they soon became the norm as 12 teammates would show up before sunrise each and every morning, ready to sprint historic Signal Hill, do a surprise PARE test, run through waist high puddles, do 21 sets of Mile One stairs or some other strenuous activity.

“Our class trained five days a week, every week… Together, we did things we had never done before and although we didn’t realize it at the time, we were learning to adapt to the situation and to persevere.”

Pelley spoke of two significant events new to all 12 recruits. The first was the Gallow’s Cove Trek in Witless Bay, Newfoundland.

“This event had us race through 8 km. of rocky, wooded terrain while carrying a 50- pound rucksack. Not only had we never run in these conditions before, most of us didn’t even know what a rucksack was,” she admitted.

After completing the trek the recruits encountered a cliff that dropped straight to the Atlantic Ocean and had to rappel over it on a single cable.

The second team building exercise was dubbed “Brass Monkey.” Recruits hiked about 100 kms. into the woods in mid-February, enduring minus 35 degree temperatures and winds gusts up to 125 km/hr.

“Our class truly came together as a team for this event, picking each other up when the wind blew us over, tightening snow shoe straps and sharing boots when feet got wet.”

Pelley thanked family and friends, on behalf of her troop mates, for their understanding and support during the training period.

“There were often days where we went without seeing you due to our early mornings and late nights. Without your support we would not be here today.”

She also thanked veteran RNC officers who guided and taught the class throughout the training process.

Since Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) began offering its one-year program in police studies a decade ago, 223 officers have graduated.

Pelley thanked both the instructors and the administrative staff at the university for their commitment to the program.

“The courses we took at MUN have provided us with valuable knowledge and have allowed us to become educated, well-rounded police officers. Memorial University provided us with the opportunity to better ourselves not only academically, but professionally, too,” she said.

Pelley’s final comments were addressed to her classmates.

During their rigorous training, she said, they saw the best and worst of each other. It was during the worst of the situations that the soon-to-be constables came together stronger than ever, she said, eager to face the next challenge as a team.

“Each and every one of you should be proud to be standing here today as you have completed some of the most demanding, rigorous training imaginable… Our training has provided us with confidence, skills and determination, which we will use to create safer communities through policing excellence.”

It wasn’t lost on these young men and women now ready to serve and protect that their training began in the very same place where they were presented with their police badges.

“One year ago today we met in this gym (Memorial’s Field House) and today we are a 12-person family that is about to become the newest members of an even larger family. It has been a pleasure to train with you,” Pelley said.

dooley@blueline.ca