British Columbia·CBC Investigates

Controversial Police Foundations course on hold after B.C. government crackdown

Documents obtained by CBC News reveal a B.C. career college that falsely claimed an almost 100 per cent employment rate for graduates of its Police Foundations program, placed less than one per cent of its graduates in policing — after charging them $20,000 for the course. Now Discovery college has pulled down the program's webpage, after the province ordered it to remove 'outdated information' or face penalties for non-compliance.

Discovery College pulls down program's webpage after being ordered to revise it immediately or face penalties

Discovery Community College had offered its Police Foundations program at three B.C. campuses in mini-malls at Surrey, Nanaimo and Campbell River. (Eric Rankin, CBC)

A B.C. career college that falsely claimed an almost 100 per cent employment rate for graduates of its "Police Foundations" program, placed less than one per cent of its graduates in policing — after charging them $20,000 for the course.

Now the fate of the program is up in the air after CBC News used a freedom of information request to obtain a March compliance order issued by the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education.

In response to inquiries from the CBC regarding ongoing questions about the program, the ministry has ordered Discovery Community College (DCC) to revise "outdated information" on their website "immediately" — or remove it. 

It also says DCC has promised not to resume enrolment in the program until changes are made.

If the institution is non-compliant, the ministry says it could face penalties or suspension.

College pulls down course info

Discovery Community College says it has "no problem taking down the current Police Foundations program page," since it will be rolling out a new name and marketing program in the next few weeks "for the fall session."

A check Friday found DCC's main website still has a Police Foundations link, but it now leads to a "Coming soon!" webpage.

In April, CBC News reported the Private Training Institutions Branch (PTIB) — the ministry's regulating body — found the college had engaged in "false or misleading" advertising

Two former police officers who quit as instructors of the program last year say the actual police employment figure revealed by the CBC confirms their suspicions.

Former police officers Curtis Robinson and Patricia Yendrys say they quit teaching the Police Foundations course over concerns that it wasn't helping students join law enforcement agencies. (Martin Diotte, CBC)

"That doesn't surprise me at all that it was less than one percent," said Patricia Yendrys, who served 31 years with the RCMP. "I could clearly see the course material was not helping them to become police officers."

Former instructor Curtis Robinson, a veteran of the Vancouver Police force, agrees.

"I feel really bad about the fact that I was part of this," said Robinson. "Had I known … I would never have spent a minute in the classroom."

Students alleged 'misled,' 'duped'

The initial government review was sparked after three students filed lawsuits over the Police Foundations program, alleging they had been "misled and duped" into believing the program was "accredited by law enforcement agencies."

They have since reached confidential out-of-court settlements with DCC.

The college says it's making changes to the name of the program.

But the ministry now says there will be ongoing monitoring to ensure students are not misled. 

Course in Surrey, Nanaimo, Campbell River

The college had offered the 54-week Police Foundations course at three of its campuses located in mini-malls in Surrey, Nanaimo and Campbell River.

On its website, DCC had stated the program was designed to provide students "with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will enable them to work at various levels of policing, public safety, security, bylaw enforcement and related justice professions."

But in its investigation, the PTIB found "only one out of 118 students was employed as a police officer" — approximately 0.8%.

A screen capture of a June 2018 Facebook ad claims 98.46 per cent of students found jobs within one year after graduating from the Police Foundations program, including placement in the RCMP and municipal police forces. (Facebook/Supplied)

The college had run social media ads last summer claiming "98.46% of the graduates from our Police Foundations program" had found jobs within one year of graduation — but that included jobs as security guards.

College admitted 'error'

Questioned by the CBC last October, DCC admitted the 98.46 per cent claim was an "error" and said it wasn't aware it was being used by its "social media vendor."

DCC spokesperson Krista Livingstone Clark now says the actual number of graduates entering policing has increased since the PTIB inspection.

"Since [October], four more graduates have gained entry to the RCMP and are at various stages of finishing their training," she said, adding there have been 20 additional graduates of the Police Foundations program.

That would place the number of graduates entering policing at just over 3.5 per cent.

Name change coming

In March, the PTIB noted it was not ordering the college to take specific action, as it considered the "false or misleading" advertising to have been remedied.

But in the full decision obtained by the CBC, the branch said it made that determination based, in part, on the college's promise it would change the name of the program.

Three months later, the college continued to advertise the "Police Foundations diploma program" on its website.

The college says it had to seek approval from the ministry for the name change and received it on May 3. Livingstone Clark says the program will be renamed Law Enforcement Foundations: Justice-Police-Security at the end of June.

But in a statement to CBC News, the Ministry of Advanced Education says "there is ongoing discussion about the new name of the program."

Robinson feels the continued use of "police" in the title, is unacceptable.

"They're still telling people that this is going to give them a significant advantage in policing," said the former instructor. "It is simply not true."

Police photo 'powerful image'

In March, the government review also chastised the college for using a photo of a police officer on the Police Foundations website.

The most recent Police Foundation website used a central image of a police officer to promote the course. (DCC website)

The compliance order stated "the photograph is a powerful image, the purpose of which is to attract students interested in employment as police officers, [however] as demonstrated by the employment outcome data, there is no direct link."

But the Police Foundations page continued to feature a central photo of a police officer.

The college defended use of the picture, saying it received confirmation from the PTIB in January that its webpage no longer contained misleading images or statements.

But the PTIB now says it has followed up with DCC, ordering that the college revise or remove unspecified information on its website.

The continued use of the image of a police officer galls Yendrys.

"I think that it's absolutely unforgivable that the picture [was] still up there," said the RCMP veteran.

"The longer that's up, the more kids they're sucking in and the more money everybody's wasting."

About the Author

Eric Rankin

Investigative journalist

Eric Rankin is an award-winning CBC reporter. His honours include the 2018 Canadian Screen Award for Best Local Reportage, the 2017 and 2015 RTDNA awards for Best In-depth/Investigative Reporting, and the 2009 Jack Webster award for Best News Reporting.

With files from Paisley Woodward