Volunteering with the Citizens on Patrol had a huge impact on Ladysmith RCMP Const. Allison Wanner as she trained to become a police officer, and she is eager to help give others the benefits she received.
Wanner graduated from the RCMP’s Training Academy-Depot in Regina, Sask., in May, and she was posted to Ladysmith as her first detachment.
Wanner has lived in Nanaimo since 2006, and she started volunteering with Nanaimo’s Citizens on Patrol (COP) group in 2010 as a way of gaining experience related to policing during her application process to the RCMP.
Everyone who applies to be a police officer must have volunteer experience, and Wanner already had quite a bit, but when she went to an RCMP orientation session, they suggested other ways to volunteer, and COP was one of them, she explained.
In her time as a COP volunteer, Wanner participated in patrols of the city on Friday and Saturday nights, helped man COP booths at public events, helped out at the Vancouver Island Exhibition as a parking attendant and attended the COP monthly meetings.
“It was getting out there and having to pay attention to things that didn’t look normal or didn’t look right,” she said. “I learned how to use a radio to communicate with the other car and with dispatch; when you’re on patrol, you’re constantly communicating. It forces you to develop skills to communicate on the radio.”
During her patrols, Wanner also learned the RCMP codes and learned the phonetic alphabet, and these skills all come in use every day now that she’s a police officer.
“It was a big introduction into practices that are put into everyday use by [RCMP] members,” said Wanner. “For me, it was huge. Also, that association with the RCMP — you could hear the RCMP’s call and find out what they were doing.”
When Wanner was at RCMP Depot in Regina, as a cadet, she had to sign out an unmarked patrol car and do patrols of the streets of Regina — just like she’d been doing in Nanaimo with the COP.
“I was already comfortable using the radio and using the police codes,” she said. “Essentially, it was learning observation skills and communication skills in a very safe environment that I was able to turn over into my training as a police officer.”
Wanner says she learned a lot of multi-tasking while she was volunteering with COP, and that helps a lot in her job, as she has to drive, use the radio, observe people and memorize licence plates.
“That’s very hard, and I had a lot of extra training,” she said.
Wanner found her time with the COP to be a great experience and says she was able to interact with a dedicated group of volunteers. She feels she also gained a sense of accomplishment in putting in her time to assist the RCMP in keeping the streets and citizens of Nanaimo safe at night.
Wanner says she also really appreciated the connection the COP has with the RCMP.
“We want it like nothing else; when you’re going through the training, we want it so bad … and anything you can do to be around the RCMP, at least for me, was just a bonus,” she said. “I think anybody applying for the RCMP should take a look at volunteering with COP. When you go for your interview, they ask what you are doing to prepare for a career with the RCMP, and if you can say you are volunteering with COP, it makes a big difference.”
After a few months of working in Ladysmith, Wanner has found herself as part of the COP community once again. She championed to become the RCMP’s liaison for the Ladysmith COP and was awarded his position in November.
Wanner is excited to get an opportunity to work with the Ladysmith COP volunteers and to help recruit new members and expand the local group.
COP was implemented in Ladysmith in 1993 by the Community Police Advisory Board in an effort to promote a safer community and as a preventative measure to reduce crime.
The COP works with the local RCMP detachment and has radio and phone contact with police officers. Patrols are generally on Friday and Saturday evenings and also, if necessary, at special events such as Halloween, Light Up and evenings before statutory holidays and school district professional development days.
The patrol members help to be the “eyes and ears” of the community, reporting suspicious incidents to police. Volunteers do not actively participate in arrest or other law-enforcement activity unless requested by police. COP members travel in pairs using the public safety van provided by the Town of Ladysmith. Patrol members can expect to perform patrol duties one evening every four to six weeks.
Wanner says the Ladysmith COP is thinking of adding daytime patrols to its Friday and Saturday night patrols.
There are many reasons people join the COP.
Bea Watson is a long-time resident of Ladysmith who has been volunteering with COP for six years. She joined COP in September 2006 at the suggestion of her husband Don, who had joined that March.
Watson, who volunteers in the community in many other ways as well, says volunteering with COP appeals to her because there is a defined amount of volunteer time required, it keeps her active in the community, and she enjoys the social aspect of interacting with the public and other volunteers.
Debbie Greenhorn has been volunteering with COP for just over a year. She has lived in Ladysmith for 23 with her husband Rick. Greenhorn feels very strongly about giving back to her community, and she joined COP in October 2011 after an introduction by an existing volunteer. Greenhorn attended the yearly convention put on by the Nanaimo COP, and she was hooked.
She says she really enjoys the fact that she is part of a volunteer group that acts as the community’s eyes and ears for the RCMP. She is proud to work with people who can help the RCMP prevent crime and provide Ladysmith residents with a sense of security.
Anyone interested in joining COP should complete an application form, which will enable a criminal record check by police. Training is provided by qualified police officers and volunteers.
Patrol members must be 19 years of age, be a resident and/or business owner of the Ladysmith area, must be of good character and pass security clearance, must have a genuine commitment in the deterrence of unlawful activity in the community, and must abide by all rules regulations and training of the patrol.
Participants can pick up an application from the Ladysmith RCMP detachment, from the RCMP Community Policing Station at Coronation Mall and from the Town of Ladysmith. The completed form is forwarded to the local RCMP office for a security check and approval.
The Ladysmith Citizens on Patrol are actively looking for members of the community who would be interested in volunteering five hours a month to this group.
For more information, call the Ladysmith RCMP at 250-245-2215 or the RCMP Community Policing Station at 250-245-1118.