The New Westminster Police Department is kicking off a new program shortly that will mentor high school students considering joining the force.
The Law Enforcement Applicant Development (LEAD) program is intended to bridge the gap between the student police academy and the actual application for the job. The student police academy is a two-week program run for high school students to get a bit of training and a feel for the job of being a police officer.
But between that point and those students applying for the reserve constable program, a stepping stone to the NWPD’s recruiting process, department officials said there can often be a missing piece of preparation for those applicants.
Jake Nolan, currently in the constable reserve program, said he took part in the student police academy when he was in high school.
“I thought this is something I definitely want to run after, but I also felt like I could have used more, and I really wanted more mentorship and guidance and answers to questions I had as I was moving towards that process,” Nolan said.
The program was created by Nolan and Wendy Bowyer, community constable for prevention services at the NWPD, with a pilot set to run for two years.
It will include guest speakers from throughout the organization, as well as relevant speakers beyond the walls of the NWPD, from the integrated gang task force to banking institutions.
“I like to think of it as the farm team … for the post-student police academy, pre-reserve program,” Bowyer said. “As far as we know, we’re the only one that is doing this for the extended time that we are, two years.”
Sgt. Jeff Scott, with the department’s recruiting unit, said he’s seen some issues where applicants at a younger age may be lacking in one of the force’s “core competencies” and skills the department looks at when hiring that could often be resolved through better coaching early on.
Those going through the program will meet once a month for two years – minus summertime, during which time there will be volunteer opportunities – and Bowyer said there will be take-home assignments.
“I think one of the things that we’ll do is we’ll put them through some physical fitness testing and team-building skills, and maybe identify weaknesses and help them build a fitness program. If somebody’s struggling with upper-body, we can help them work through that,” Bowyer said.
Another area that can raise some red flags is lifestyle, whether it’s how one interacts on social media or having several traffic tickets – things that seem minor but when taken as a whole don’t display the self-discipline expected of applicants.
“People say it is not just a job, (and) it really isn’t just like any other job that you’re going for. It’s an entire lifestyle that you’re getting into. In the process, they’re assessing your entire lifestyle up until this point,” Nolan said.
“That’s where amongst a group of myself and my friends and people I know that are trying to get into policing, there’s been a lot of different directions that they have gone that have unfortunately either disqualified them or made it difficult for them to continue pursuing this job.”
The program will include around 20 youths aged 16 to 19, with applications available on the NWPD website, nwpolice.org, or at the physical location at 555 Columbia Street. Deadline to apply is Oct. 6.