RCMP Const. Stephanie Leduc introduced her Mini Mountie program at East Three Elementary School in September 2017 and it is set to launch in Aklavik in the fall.
“The Mini Mountie program is something I developed myself in Drayton Valley, Alberta, to help get police and municipal enforcement involved in the schools,” said Leduc. “We’re trying to build a connection so it’s not just them seeing us in uniform enforcing the laws, but trying to bridge that gap and build more of a friendship between us and the kids.”
The program takes place over six-week-long periods, each with a different topic that aims to teach students something about staying safe in their community. A bulletin board is set up in the school with information about the topic, as well as relevant colouring sheets that students can fill in and enter into a contest.
The last topic was internet safety. Next month’s topic is bike safety.
“At the end of that six weeks, we have one winner from each grade that wins a prize pack,” said Leduc. “Throughout the six weeks, we’ll be in and out of the class talking about the topic that’s going on at that time.”
She runs the program collaboratively with Const. TJ Moore. She added that the program is important because it fosters a positive relationship between youth and police.
“It’s important for us to do that because as police officers, we get called into situations that are very high-risk, like domestic violence, and a lot of the time, the kids are there when we go there. So we’re going there when it’s probably one of the scariest times of their life,” said Leduc. “So when the police show up, I don’t want their first reaction to be that they don’t know who we are, that they’re terrified, that police have guns. I want them to see us and say to themselves, ‘I know Const. Leduc from the school, she is a friendly person, she is nice,’ then they know that I’m there and I’m nice, but also that I have a job to do.”
Leduc said she was once responding to a high-risk domestic violence call where a girl was hiding downstairs.
“When I went downstairs, she saw me, and she said, ‘Oh, Constable Leduc, are you here to play Barbies?'” said Leduc. “When she saw me, we had that connection already because I’d seen her in the school, I’d read stories to her, I’d been in her classroom. Her first thought wasn’t that I was bad or there to arrest someone.”
Leduc said the Mini Mountie program continues to take place in Alberta, as well as in Fort Good Hope, NWT, where she implemented it last month.
“Aklavik is planning to implement it next year,” she said. “A few other communities are interested in starting it next year as well.”