Enrolment down at Atlantic Police Academy with new training program launching in Halifax

The Atlantic Police Academy has seen its enrolment numbers drop for the upcoming year, at the same time that Halifax Regional Police has launched its own police training program.

Executive director sees the change as a new opportunity for the academy

The Atlantic Police Academy has operated the police science program out of Summerside, P.E.I. since 1971. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

The Atlantic Police Academy has seen its enrolment numbers drop for the upcoming year, at the same time as Halifax Regional Police has launched its own police training program.

Until now, Holland College's Atlantic Police Academy in Summerside, P.E.I., has been the only place in the Maritimes offering police training.

It trains students during a 35-week course to be ready to work in police forces across the country.

"Students are learning everything from a very detailed law course, dealing with people," said Forrest Spencer, the executive director of the Atlantic Police Academy.

"It's a very encompassing package."

Forrest Spencer, executive director of the Atlantic Police Academy, says they have had a great working relationship with Halifax Regional Police. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Starting in January, Halifax Regional Police will offer its own police science program, with 24 cadets signed up for the program.

The 38-week course will cost $10,000 for the recruits in Halifax.

The Atlantic Police Academy is around $31,000, which includes accommodations and meals.

"We are doing a review of our costs and we are doing a review of programs to see if there may be other ways to deliver them," Spencer said.

The Atlantic Police Academy course includes practising on a driving course and spending time in the gun range. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

The impact of the new Halifax program is already being felt at the Summerside academy.

There were 62 cadets enrolled in the course last year and around 46 set to start next month.

The Academy's executive director says he does recognize the benefits of the new program.

Halifax program begins in January

The Halifax program could be beneficial for students who aren't able to leave the region for personal reasons, he says, or can't afford the tuition at the Atlantic Police Academy.

"I think we still do get a very good cross section of the Canadian population, but of course it's a barrier to some people," Spencer said.

"I don't think, it certainly doesn't zero out any particular group, but it is a barrier for some, there's no doubt about it." 

Cadets with the Atlantic Police Academy are required to stay in the school's residence during the training, except during their on-the-job training. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Spencer says the dip in enrolment will have an impact but he also sees it as an opportunity.

With more than a thousand applicants for the 24 spots in Halifax, Spencer says it's clear there are a lot of people interested in police work.

"There's some really good applicants in Halifax who, just by virtue of the sheer numbers, that just aren't going to be able to fit into their 24-person class," he said.

"So there's some excellent candidates that may be not going to be able to join us this year, but hopefully consider us next year."

Lots of interest in police science courses

Spencer expects to continue to have a good working relationship with the Halifax Regional Police Force.

They recently hired 10 program graduates and have taken trainees for work experience in the past.

He says the main difference between the two programs is that the Halifax class will be geared toward working at the Halifax Regional Police, while graduates from the Atlantic Police Academy are trained to be transferable to any police force in the country. 

Atlantic Police Academy was the only place in the Maritimes that had a police science program until Halifax Regional Police begins its program in January. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

"We're a recognized institution, we provide excellent training, we've got some innovative ideas that we're implementing," Spencer said.

"And we're a great option for those folks who just simply aren't going to be able to be hired by Halifax."

Spencer says he plans to work with the marketing department on recruitment efforts and is hoping for higher enrolment numbers next year.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Sarah MacMillan


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