Eleventh class graduates from RCMP Citizens Academy

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The 11th Annual Citzen’s Academy Class poses for a post graduation photo on the staircase of the Provincial Building in Morinville. Ninetween Morinville and area residents took part in this year’s program. – Stephen Dafoe Photos

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – Nineteen citizens concluded a seven-week glimpse inside the world of community policing Wednesday night. The Morinville RCMP’s eleventh annual Citizen’s Academy program wrapped up Apr. 3 with the graduation ceremony, an opportunity for students to recap and celebrate their nearly two-month experience learning about the different faces of crime from the criminal on the corner to the international reaches of drug and human trafficking.

Each Wednesday participants took part in seminars and activities by police experts, including a visit RCMP headquarters in Edmonton. An added bonus was the opportunity to be a citizen observer travelling with an on duty officer.

Acting Staff Sergeant Mark Mathias said the program is an opportunity not only for the members of the detachment to share a bit of what they know with citizens but also for the members to learn the thoughts and perceptions of the community. “It’s great for the community. It’s great for us. And I’m really glad all of you were able to participate in it,” Mathias said to the graduating class Wednesday evening.

Morinville Mayor Paul Krauskopf also sang the praises of the program and reflected on its value to the community. “This is a unique program, as we all know, in the province,” the mayor said, adding the opportunity for participants to accompany an officer on duty as an observer and the various sessions on different aspects of law enforcement were all important. “Probably the most important thing of all was the opportunity for the knowledge and the education that you received has an impact on all our communities and certainly adds value to the quality of life.”

Constable Yelana Avoine, who has organized the program for several years, said the detachment has seen a positive outcome from the program’s ongoing success over the years it has been offered to residents in the detachment area. That success comes not only from the geographical diversity but the demographic diversity. “What’s interesting about Citizen’s Academy is that every year we have participants starting at the age of 15 or 16 all the way to 75 years old,” she said. “It’s just interesting to see that we bring people from different careers. We have social workers, teachers; it’s a really good social mix.”

Participant Nathan Korownyk was chosen by the group to be the Class Valedictorian. He offered his impressions of the program, recapping what he and fellow classmates went through.

“We’ve just completed the Morinville Citizen’s Academy, one of only two programs of its kind in Canada,” Korownyk said. “We’ve been given a rare glimpse into the policing of our immediate community and beyond. We’ve developed an understanding of policing in our community, not an all-encompassing understanding but certainly a more informed one.”

Korownyk recapped much of what had been learned over the weeks, ending with one point that stuck with him. That point is that a major problem for policing today is a lax attitude towards policing from the communities they serve. “If we as residents of Sturgeon County want an effective police force, we need to get involved,” he said, adding he learned policing was only as good as the community it serves. “We can do so informally by becoming more aware of our surroundings. We can also take a more formal approach by joining organizations like Morinville’s Citizens on Patrol of Sturgeon Rural Crime Watch.”

Each of the participants were presented with a certificate from the RCMP indicating they had completed the program.

Above Left: Class Valedictorian Nathan Korownyk delivers his remarks at the ceremony Apr. 3.

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