'A diverse group': Edmonton police launch Canada's first mentorship academy

Edmonton police have started the country's first mentorship academy to encourage women, Indigenous people and members of visible minority and diverse communities to join up.

Police service hopes to increase diversity of its members to better reflect makeup of the city

'You can do more than you think you can'

5 years ago
Duration 1:19
Edmonton Police Service mentorship academy is the first of its kind in Canada. Its goal is to improve diversity in the force.

Edmonton police have started the country's first mentorship academy to encourage women, Indigenous people and members of visible minority and diverse communities to join up.

The academy completed its first 12-week session on June 5 and plans to start another in August.

The academy selected 16 applicants for the pilot project, said Heather Smith, co-ordinator of the mentoring academy.
EPS members work out with potential future police officers at Run with the Recruiter. (CBC)

"Eight were women and eight were men ... from a variety of backgrounds," said Smith. "They were a diverse group."

Applicants attended the academy three hours a week for 12 weeks.

"Basically, we put them through different sessions run by over 40 members of the Edmonton Police Service that have volunteered their time," said Smith. "So leadership, lots of communications ... interpersonal skills ... public speaking. Pulling things out of the application process that have kind of hung up people in the past."

Run with recruiter whips applicants into shape

Students in the mentorship academy were required to attend weekly workout sessions called "Run with the Recruiter."

It's an old-school, boot-camp approach to help potential officers get in shape, with drills such as running stairs, jumping jacks, and burpees.

Elordie Ansay, 36, plans to attend the second mentorship academy in August.

His first application to EPS wasn't successful. But the people at the academy saw something in him worth pursuing.

Elordie Ansay trained as a teacher in the Philippines but wants to be an Edmonton police officer.

Ansay is from the Philippines, where he trained as a teacher. Now he's working two jobs, as a landscaper and a cashier.

He said he has always dreamed of being a police officer.

Since February, he has been getting into better shape by running with the recruiter twice a week.

"These police officers that I work out with, the encouragement they tell you every time," he said. "That's the thing that actually pushes me to get into this."

Ansay said he has learned a lot at his fitness sessions.

"It helped me emotionally, socially and that," he said. "I'm more involved in society now than ever. Especially from a guy who wasn't a natural-born Canadian, it's always inherently hard, actually difficult, to be an immigrant, culturally, socially and all that."

Many officers already have family or friends involved in the police who can help mentor or encourage them, said Smith.

"A lot of the time, those under-represented communities don't have that, especially newcomers to Canada," said Smith. "They don't have anybody to draw on, and so this program is that encouragement."

Getting more women in the force

One goal of the mentorship academy is to grow the number of female officers.

Though EPS saw a big jump in attendance at information sessions last year, including more than 1,300 women, applications from women remained stagnant at just 113, the same as in 2015.

Debra Tams, 34, worked on farms for 16 years before deciding to try another life as a police officer.

Debra Tams plans to join the mentorship academy in August. (CBC)

Like Ansay, her first application to EPS ended in a deferral and an invitation to attend the next mentorship academy.

"I was really excited when I found out," she said. "I was pretty much jumping out of my skin."

Tams said the chance to make a positive difference in the world drew her to policing as a possible career.

"I would like to have an impact in the world, instead of just being a little cog in a machine,"Tams said.

"As a farmer, there's not many females doing what I was doing at the level I was doing it," she said. "So you get used to people looking at you like, 'Oh? You do that too? How did you learn it?' Like anyone learns it, I guess. You just get out there and do it."

Encouraging results from first academy

The police service currently has 1,814 members. Twenty-one per cent are female and 11 per cent self-identify as either visible minority or Indigenous.

If the results of the first academy are anything to go by, the program will be a success, said Smith.

Two people from the academy have already been hired and 11 of the 16 who attended have gone on to the next step in the eight-step application process to become officers.

"We want to represent Edmonton as a whole, and Edmonton is a very diverse city," Smith said. "And so that's where this idea, I think, is just going to take off."
Heather Smith, co-ordinator of the mentorship academy, says the department wants to see more police officers who reflect the diversity of Edmonton. (CBC)


Nola Keeler is an award-winning journalist who has worked with CBC in Whitehorse, Yukon and Edmonton since 2000. She has worked as a host, reporter, news reader and producer for CBC. Send story ideas to nola.keeler@cbc.ca.