Vol. 76, No. 3Cover stories

Not just a job

RCMP careers offer limitless possibilities

The RCMP's tactical troops offer members the opportunity to develop and hone different skills as well as do something different from their day-to-day work. Credit: E Division Tactical Troop, B.C. RCMP


After a year of initial training and five years of general duty work, RCMP members can hop from one job to the next every few years for the next three decades. And that's an intriguing prospect for many prospective recruits — and seasoned police officers.

Unconventional work

Special O, the RCMP's elite and highly specialized covert surveillance unit, investigates matters ranging from national security and major crimes to drugs. With units in each of the RCMP's divisions across the country, they're always looking for new faces with an interest in technology.

Sgt. J.W. (name abbreviated to protect his identity) says there's no baseline requirement for service or education when they're looking for new members. But new members must not only be comfortable behind the wheel of a car, they also have to adopt an attitude that's less "police-like" to blend in with the general population.

"Since our work is done on the road, suitable members also have little interest in spending most days behind a computer screen at the office," says J.W. "We look for candidates with positive attitudes, progressive learning skills and the ability to not display police-oriented behaviour."

Recently, the Special O training office has been proactively seeking out managers and training co-ordinators across the country to promote and recruit for the team. Divisional units have also being offering mentor ride-along sessions for prospective members.

"What really attracts members to this line of work is being part of an elite team or section and getting to work on a diversity of high-priority files," says J.W. "It definitely brings new challenges and a sense of accomplishment."

Direct career paths

There are some positions that require prospective applicants to put in considerable time and effort. With only six criminal profiling positions within the force across the country, the unit has strict background requirements and a rigorous three-year understudy program. It's not a career members can just pick up.

"We look for members with a minimum of 10 years service and with a major crime background, in particular with sexual assault and homicide investigations," says Sgt. Jamie De Wit, a criminal profiler in Ottawa, Ont. "You really have to orient your career towards this and you have to be prepared and dedicated to put in the time and work."

During their three years in the understudy program, they're taught to think about the offender's behaviours and ask why they behave the way they do.

They also participate in three internships with various law enforcement agencies, including the Ontario Provincial Police, the Sûreté du Québec and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

And while Hollywood interpretations of the field definitely draw attention and recognition to the RCMP's team, De Wit says there's more to criminal profiling than most expect.

"Everybody thinks of the unknown offender profile, but we'll actually do threat assessments on known subjects where there's a concern for violence, we'll do interview interrogation strategies and analyze strange death scenes where investigators aren't sure what they're dealing with," says De Wit.

Change of scenery

There are also options for members who are hoping to shake up their day-to-day experiences.

With 12 tactical troops across the country with standardized training and techniques, according to Sgt. Marc Lefebvre, the national public order co-ordinator, recruitment generally works through word of mouth. The demand to join is so great that nearly all troops have waiting lists.

Besides a fitness requirement, members attend yearly training to practise their perishable skills. Lefebvre adds due to the paramilitary structure of the troops, being a team player and being comfortable with taking command is also a must.

"There's blood, sweat and stress: sometimes you're 65 to 100 members up against a mob of 3,000 or 10,000," says Lefebvre.

Because of that pressure, troops tend to bond quickly and intensely — there's a real closeness that forms, and a desire to ensure the success of the group.

Tactical troops, like many of the RCMP's specialized programs, offer the force's many diverse members the chance to use a different set of skills.

"It's not everybody's cup of tea," says Lefebvre. "But you tend to find the same type of members who comprise the troops, regardless of the division: they like to make a difference, they take pride in contributing to a positive outcome and the results are right there."

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