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Mini Mountie program connects kids with police officers in Inuvik

Inuvik police are connecting with children in their community, thanks to a new initiative bringing officers into the school called the Mini Mountie program.

'It is really important in our job that kids know that they can come to the police,' says constable

Const. Stephanie Leduc, left, and Const. T.J. Moore, right, award a junior kindergarten student the Mini Mountie award. Each month one student from every grade at East Three Elementary School in Inuvik, N.W.T., is selected as the winner of a colouring contest as part of the program. (Submitted by Stephanie Leduc)

Inuvik police are connecting with children in their community thanks to a new initiative called the Mini Mountie program, which is bringing officers into the local school.

Const. Stephanie Leduc created the program while working with the RCMP in Alberta and brought the idea with her when she relocated to the N.W.T.

"The ultimate goal is to increase the relationship between students and the police," she said.

"It is really important in our job that kids know that they can come to the police, that the police are a safe place for them to go to."

The Mini Mountie program started in Inuvik last year, and targets students from junior kindergarten to Grade 6.

Through the Mini Mountie program, RCMP officers try to visit East Three Elementary School at least once a week and hold a number of events with students. (Submitted by Stephanie Leduc)

Officers try to visit East Three Elementary School at least once a week. They read to students, have lunch with them, and hold events like bike rodeos and visits from Santa.

Every six weeks, the Mini Mounties tackle a new topic. When school starts in September, they'll talk about bullying.

Leduc said the program helps kids feel more comfortable around police officers.

"We do go to calls where these children are involved in domestic violence, in violence in general, and when we go there we want them to feel safe," she said.

"It's a scary situation when something's going on in your home, like violence, and the police show up. So having that already-built connection ... is something that they can look back to in those really scary times."

Const. Stephanie Leduc says the aim of the program is to help youth recognize and feel safe around police officers in their community. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

Leduc remembers when she responded to a domestic violence call at a home in Alberta. When she arrived at the scene, she saw a photo of a little girl on the fridge that she recognized from the Mini Mountie program.

The ultimate goal is to increase the relationship between students and the police.- Const. Stephanie Leduc

When she went to go check on her, the girl's first response was to ask Leduc if she was there to play Barbies. For Leduc, that was a huge success.

"Us being there wasn't about mom and dad getting in this very physical fight," she said. "It was, 'Oh, Const. Leduc is here to play Barbies.'"

In Inuvik, Leduc said she's recognized by kids, thanks to the program. She added that older students feel comfortable talking to officers because of the relationships it's helped build.

Now heading into its second year, the program is starting to expand across the North.

It ran for one month in Fort Good Hope last school year and will continue there this fall. Leduc says Aklavik, Tuktoyaktuk and Paulatuk are also looking to bring the Mini Mountie program to their schools.

A bike rodeo is just one of many events RCMP have held with students in Inuvik to increase connections between kids and police officers in the community. (Submitted by Stephanie Leduc)

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