Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The RCMP is hiring! (Not me though)

The RCMP is doing some PR. They are having a recruitment drive, and in order to get some media attention, they gave a few of us an opportunity to visit their training centre to see what it is that they do. And while I'm certain their regular days are not as exciting as the one they put me through yesterday, there was still enough cool stuff going on to make me think this would be a pretty cool career. For someone else. The one thing that surprised me was how many young people there were from Ottawa. I always thought that when you were hired by the RCMP, you were automatically posted to Nunavut for six years, and could maybe work your way back to Ottawa once you had forty-one years of seniority. Or something. Apparently, not the case. I even ran into an old friend of mine from high school, who is now a member of the RCMP ERT team, which is like the federal SWAT team. But then, she was into bull-riding in high school, if I remember correctly. Weirdo thrill-seeker.

The mounties sent a van to grab me as soon as the show finished yesterday morning, but no one would tell us what it was we were going to be doing. It was all very hush-hush, adding to the sense of anticipation, until we finally pulled up in front of the RCMP training centre, where we were greeted by a welcoming comittee of mounties, fully decked out in their dress uniforms and so forth. This made me feel decidedly under-dressed, since I was wearing the coveralls that are issued to the officers who clean up after the horses at the stables. So after some photo-ops with the dressed-up mounties and dressed-down me, we took a tour. We saw the motorcycle cops being put through their paces, as they did their slow manoeuvers through some pylons. 900 pound bikes are not easy to manoeuver slowly. I was hoping to try it myself, but I guess their bikes are too expensive to risk on someone like me.

Then we got to meet the VIP escort team, as they showed us what they do to prepare for a possible terrorist attack. This includes their evasive manoeuvers, and I got to ride in the car as the van pulled up in front of us, full of terrorists ready to take out the VIP. The car backed up fast, faster than I could ever go backwards in a car, and pulled that move you see in the movies, where it spins around as it's going 80 km/h and takes off going straight ahead. Very cool stuff. Then I got to ride in the car as the cops showed us their technique for knocking someone off the road, that thing you see in Fox's Craziest Car Chases, where the cop car knocks the back bumper of the car it's chasing and that car spins off the road. I got to ride in both cars, and it certainly seems like there would be no way to avoid spinning out were the cops to do this to you. The mounties explained that when you see this happen on Fox, it is the Americans who do this, often to a guy who takes off to avoid a speeding ticket. We don't do this in Canada. The guy has to be specifically dangerous before he (or she, I suppose) gets forced off the road in this manner. I wanted to try driving like that too, but I guess their cars are too expensive to risk on someone like me.

Then Laurette, (my old high school friend) took us hostage in our van, and we went through the hostage-terrorist takedown procedure. She named me as her accomplice, so I was dealt with as a criminal would be. Although I must say, they might need to be a little clearer with their instructions. I had to walk forward with my hands in the air, and go down to my knees, and walk on my knees to the back of a police car. But they said things to me like "spread your knees as far as you can and walk forward". Which ended up being physically impossible. I could do one, or the other, but not both. Then they told me "move to the back of the PC!" It took me a few minutes to understand that "PC" meant "police car". Had I been a terrorist, my lack of comprehension could easily have got me shot. Then the officer who cuffed me had a hard time with my fat wrists. That hurt.

Then we visited the mobile command centre, which the RCMP takes around to major events. Lots of neat gadgets and surveillance equipment. Then we met the bicycle team, who train in a different area. They let us ride their bikes, I guess figuring I couldn't do much damage to a bicycle. Being a bike cop is a pretty cool detail. When visiting dignitaries are in Ottawa, they need to be able to continue to live the way they otherwise would, regardless of the dangers facing them. So if they are bike riders, the RCMP has to send their bike squad out with them. If they want to go skiing, the RCMP has a team of skiers that goes with them. Each skier is ranked on a scale of 1-10, and to ski with that dignitary, the officers have to be at least at that same level. Jean Chretien, for example, is a level-8 skier, which means that the security detail with him must be at least level 8s themselves. Apparently, I would be a level-one. I didn't get to ski. Well, there are very few hills open right now. I wanted to see if they trained to learn the skills needed to chase James Bond down a ski hill firing M-16s. I'll have to wait to find that out.

Next, I went up in the helicopter. Which was cool, as we did a ten-minutes tour over Orleans. Then the boat. I took a ride in an RCMP boat, which patrols the river below Stephen Harper's residence and the British High Commission and NRC and all that. In fact, it is docked at the same place, on the Quebec side, that I once broke into on the Doc and Woody show. We had a report that Eugene Melnyk's yacht was there, and I went down to find him on his boat. But it was all locked and secure, so I had to break in. Apparently, the RCMP had their boats docked there also, and it appears I dodged a rather substantial bullet. As I recall, the security guard there was listening to the Doc and Woody show at the time, and that was what tipped him off that perhaps he should go down to the docks and check whether I was really there. And I was, and he rolled his eyes and let me out the gate, making sure I didn't need to execute my athletic breaking-in manoeuver in reverse. Ah, memories.

And then - the motorcade. We were given a full, prime-ministerial motorcade right to parliament hill. The motorcycle cops in front, the lead car behind them, and us in the bulletproof, bomb-proof limo in the middle, then the trailing car and the trailing motorcycles. This was awfully cool. Just sitting in that limo you can feel the weight of the thing. The doors are incredibly heavy too, tough just to open. The cars in front and behind are incredibly close. Like, a foot from the bumpers at all times. They move to the right and the left to block off any potential threats, creating this bizarre staggering effect as the motorcade makes it's way down the road. The guys running the motorcade were the real guys who do this, the real presidential or prime ministerial detail. This was a level-5 motorcade, which is what Stephen Harper gets wherever he goes. This is the highest level of detail, except for the 5+, which is reserved for just three people. The president of the United States, the pope, and the queen. That's it. That's the one where they actually shut down the roads so the cars can go by without any traffic at all. Apparently, I was sitting in the same seat Arnold Schwarzennegger used when he was driven around in the same car when he came to Ottawa.

Then the whole day ended at Parliament Hill, where we pulled up in the motorcade for some photo ops. That was the best part of the day - watching people's excited and expectant faces turn to disappointment when the doors opened and it was just a fat guy in coveralls. (Me.) Awesome! Anyway, a great day all around, and just so much effort from the RCMP to show me their world for a day. They are hiring now, and I wouldn't be the shill that I am if I didn't endorse a career in the mounties and put up their website and information. Here it is:

The RCMP is looking for men and women who want to make adifference in communities across Canada

Did you know that you don't require a diploma in policefoundations to apply to the RCMP?

RCMP Cadets are trained for 26 weeks at the RCMP Academy inRegina, Saskatchewan.

Requirements to join include a high school diploma, proficiencyin either English or French, be willing to re-locate anywhere in Canadaand be physically fit.

What do you require to join the RCMP?

You must be a Canadian citizen

Be 19 years of age at time of engagement

Be willing to locate anywhere in Canada

Be physically fit

Be proficient in either English or French

Did you know that you may be eligible for a student loan whiletraining at the RCMP Academy?

To find out more, go to


  1. great story. It must have been fun.

    I just have a quick question:
    You said it was or wasnt true that you will be sent to Nunavut and need 15 years before you can come back to a big city?

    I know it was like that back then, but I just wanted to know how it would work out today with the huge rate of retirement..
    Thanks a lot!

  2. Weirdo thrill seeker? Bikes too expensive for you? Fat wrists? You weren't a sheltered child were you?