RCMP officers and instructors share a moment for a photo op with the cadets at the annual RCMP Jean Minguy Memorial Youth Academy at the Vernon Army Camp.

RCMP officers and instructors share a moment for a photo op with the cadets at the annual RCMP Jean Minguy Memorial Youth Academy at the Vernon Army Camp.

North Okanagan officers giving back to the community they live in

Community policing is at the heart of what RCMP officers do. Building strong relationships with the people is fundamental to our success...

Gord molendyk

For The Morning Star

This year the Vernon/North Okanagan RCMP  detachment is planning to do several articles highlighting the community service that our dedicated RCMP members perform on their own time, to make a difference in the detachment area that they live and work in.

Community policing is at the heart of what we do. Building strong relationships with the people of our community is fundamental to our success, we are part of our communities not just as police officers but as coaches and mentors and family members.

This is about the officers that gave up many hours of their own time over and above their normal work duties to give a very positive experience to the 48 young men and women who attended this year’s RCMP Jean Minguy Memorial Youth Academy.

Both officers in charge of the North Okanagan detachment would like to thank all of the active RCMP members and the two retired members who gave of their time to make the cadet camp a success again this year.

Cpl. Terry Pakenham and Const. Mitch Steck (both now retired) come back each year and give their time for the whole week the camp is in operation. Steck is the drill instructor and disciplinarian.

Pakenham was instrumental in a great deal of the fund raising that took place.

He traveled up and down the Okanagan valley, and met with leaders of municipalities and school districts, several service clubs in the Okanagan as well as police detachments in the region.

“I do it because of the change I see in the youth during that one week, it is life-changing for many of them,” said Pakenham. “Through this experience the cadets realize that the officers they meet are human just like them.”

Though there were a total of 14 regular members taking an active part of the training and mentoring the students this year at different levels to make it a successful and meaning full experience for the cadets who came from as far away as Golden in the north to Osoyoos in the south.

The coordinator of this annual camp is Const. Kathy Szoboticsanec, Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP school liaison officer,. She contributed more than 60-plus hours of her own time preparing, fundraising, and selecting both the right officers to do the training for the week, as well and the student participants who applied to the program. She is dedicated to making sure every aspect of this event is well organized and runs smoothly from start to finish.

Const. Steven Schenkeveld from the North Okanagan Traffic Service unit was once a cadet at this camp himself. Now he has come back as a mentor and leader for the youth. This year he spent about 50 to 60 hours of his own time canvassing sponsors and supporters in our community on his days off prior to the camp between both Vernon and in Kelowna.

In addition to this, he coordinated the entire traffic day which involved arranging the local fire department staff as well as paramedics to create a dynamic crash scene complete with an actor sitting in a crashed vehicle with full make-up and prompts. He also arranged the commercial vehicle unit and a large truck so the students could experience the road safety and protocols all on his own time.

Const. Dale Benfeld (Enderby/Armstrong) spent nearly 70 hours of his off-duty time preparing the regimental history curriculum for all the students. He photocopied a 25-page handout that contained the history of the RCMP. In addition to this, Benfeld also ordered the period uniforms of the six evolutions of the NWMP/RNWMP/RCMP from the museum in Regina. He also contacted the E DIV Staff/Sergeant Major for the lances and bases for the graduation ceremonies.

Const. Nick Reimann (Vernon) was at the cadet camp for the first time, and was there night and day with the troop.

Reimann took it upon himself to contact various community providers and enlighten them about the youth academy. He was fortunate to gather numerous sponsors and supporters and spent in excess of 30 hours his own time not counting the long days at the camp.

“I never realized the impact one week could have on building relationships between youth and police,” said Reimann.

Const. Mack McCall’s (Lake Country detachment) dedication to the camp did not go unnoticed.

He would complete his scheduled shift, then would drive to Vernon and complete a full training day with the cadets. He was there for his days off while the camp was in progress.

Each and every officer will tell you much the same thing, they do things like this to give back to the community they live in. They also do it to build relationships and leave a positive impression for a young person starting out in the work force who might be thinking about a career in police work.

While the focus of the week is on team work, the experience the young men and women gain during the week might convince some that police work is the career path they want to follow.

Gord Molendyk is the media liaison and spokesperson for the Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP detachment.