When the Canadian Police College (CPC) first opened its doors in 1976, it offered nine courses. Today, the college has more than 60 advanced and specialized courses and workshops in investigative techniques, technological crime, forensic identification, explosives training and police executive development.
Over the years, these and other programs have helped shape and specialize numerous career paths, including the career of Sgt. Nicolas Bernier, who joined the RCMP in 2004.
"Four years after I joined the force, I took the computer forensic examiner course at the CPC and I've been building on that training ever since," says Bernier.
The CPC has offered computer crime investigative techniques training since 1980. However, a computer course back then would have looked significantly different than it does today.
"Cybercrime and the technology that's used is fluid and you have to stay on top of it. When I worked at the Integrated Technological Crime Unit [in Ottawa], I used the training that I'd just received at the CPC and applied it to a very high-profile, high-stakes national security file in 2010," recalls Bernier.
That file was Project Samosa, one of Canada's most extensive anti-terrorism investigations. Bernier continued his training in cybercrime and completed the required accreditation for a position at the RCMP's Technical Analysis Team.
"Each year, our section would examine over 500 smartphones that were part of different investigations involving organized crime groups, including the gang wars in B.C.," he says.
Mobile devices often contain crucial pieces of evidence and Bernier admits that one of the more gratifying moments was testifying as an expert witness in court.
Just last year, Bernier returned to the CPC, this time as an instructor specializing in the forensic examination of mobile devices.
"It all starts with training and being a part of the college is a way to give back. Sometimes students will contact me and let me know that they're working on a high-profile case or providing testimony as an expert witness and I can tell that they're proud and feel like they're making a difference," he says.
• The most significant milestone in the formal creation of CPC took place at the Federal-Provincial Conference of Attorneys General on Organized Crime in January 1966.
• The CPC officially opened its doors on Nov. 10, 1976.
• Since its inception, the college has averaged 2,500 students per year from across Canada and abroad
• The top five most attended courses are major crime investigative techniques; major case management, team commander; forensic interviewing; organized crime; and using the internet as an intelligence tool.
Like Bernier, C/Supt. Paula Dionne recalls her own training at the Canadian Police College. After being on general duty and other sections for a few years, Dionne became interested in the forensic identification discipline.
"I took the nine-week forensic identification course that CPC offered at that time and my career took a completely different path," she says. "It's a specialized field that called on my particular areas of strength and helped shape my contributions to criminal investigations."
Dionne took her training in 1995, later becoming the officer in charge of the RCMP's Integrated Forensic Identification Services in Ottawa in 2009. She says that her learning was continuous throughout this period: "We need to be effective from the crime scene right to the courtroom and the only way we can do that is to be prepared," Dionne says.
Dionne later served as director general of the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) for four years and recently moved to Federal and International Special Services.
"My career really started to take shape within forensic identification but the great thing about being in law enforcement is that there are many ways to grow as an individual and in your career. The Canadian Police College was an important part of my journey and still is," she says.
Dionne believes learning never stops, most particularly in today's environment.
A/Commr. Barbara Fleury, who stepped into her new role as executive director at the college last August, encourages her colleagues to ensure learning and development opportunities are always available.
"When I met with the instructors and employees at the college, it was clear to me that that they take great pride in ensuring our officers and civilian experts are ready for today and tomorrow's challenges," she says.