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A male RCMP officer sits behind an electric drum set

Policing to a different beat

Officer connects with youth through drum lessons

Cst. Justin Helm uses his passion for music to connect with youth in Fort Resolution, N.W.T. Credit: RCMP

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RCMP Cst. Justin Helm has combined his belief in community policing and passion for music to connect with youth in the isolated Hamlet of Fort Resolution, N.W.T.

When Helm began working in the community last fall, he was searching for ways to reach out to young people.

"I thought of the skills I have that they might relate to and not otherwise learn," he says. "And then it came to me — drumming."

Helm, who's performed music since he was eleven, sold the idea to the Deninu Kue First Nation band council, which then bought an electronic drum kit for the local youth centre.

Helm admits the council was hesitant at first because of the noise associated with a traditional drum set. But after describing how an electric drum kit lets the user hear the drums through headphones while others only hear a soft pitter-patter, the council was on board.

"I explained I would spend time with the youth and teach them how to use it," says Helm.

When the set arrived, Helm installed it at the youth centre and it was immediately popular.

"There was a stampede for the kit," he says.

The first thing Helm showed them was how to care for the new instrument.

"It's an opportunity to instill a sense of taking ownership," he says. "I explained to them it was a gift from the Band."

Now, Helm teaches drumming at least 10 hours a week — a combination of personal time and his work as a community police officer.

"The youth love it and I love teaching them," he says. "Once I started to show them how to play, their whole attitude towards me changed. Now they smile and talk with me openly."

Helm says playing the drums teaches concentration, dedication and self-discipline. The set is shared on a time slot, which also imparts co-operation.

Helm hopes to expand the music experience with microphones for those interested in singing.

"Music is like Lego," Helm says. "If you want to build something you need pieces, and drums are the foundation of any music project."

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