Aboriginal teens are getting a chance to experience life as a police recruit this week thanks to a new summer program from Edmonton Police.
About 30 youths between 13 and 18 years of age are taking part in the four-day Aboriginal Youth Police Academy
The teens are running recruit obstacle courses, taking leadership training courses and listening to talks from elders and other speakers.
They also got to watch a demonstration by the police canine unit and see the police helicopter up close.
Jade Tootoosis-Janvier took a selfie with her phone in front of the chopper. This is the first time she’s seen the helicopter up close.
“I tend to see a lot of helicopters with the lights on go roaming around Abbotsfield," she said. "I often see that a lot."
Youth can have poor perception of police
Edmonton has the second largest urban aboriginal community in Canada, with nearly half of them under the age of 25.
These youth are the future of the city, but some, like Tootoosis-Janiver, have a poor view of police.
“The group I hang around sometimes they don't always like cops,” she said. “Sometimes cops are mean to me and my friends.”
Edmonton police hope to change that perception through the youth academy, which was developed with aboriginal and educational groups in the city, including the Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society, Ben Calf Robe Society and Edmonton Catholic Schools.
Talking about these types of interactions is part of the experience, said Andrea Levey, the aboriginal relations co-ordinator with Edmonton Police.
“That's why this is really important to have those discussions about what happened and what their experiences are so that we can talk through them,” she said.
Tootoosis-Janvier says the academy has given her a new view of police officers.
“I learned that policemen, they do risk their lives a lot ... they put a lot of effort into it,” she said. “The police force is like a second family to them.”
The teens continue in the program until Friday, when they will graduate in a special ceremony with a dinner, performances and a traditional blanket presentation.