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Thursday, September 3, 2015

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Tough training doesn’t faze prospective RCMP officer

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Bonnie Phillips [Jordana Phillips photo]

Bonnie Phillips has spent the better part of the last two years chasing her career dream. But Phillips’ dream is not your average career: she hopes to join the RCMP.

“I’m actually doing this, I can’t believe it,” said Phillips, 23, of her recent acceptance to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) training program.

After graduating from forensic sciences at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus, she dedicated her time to preparing for the long, multi-stage tests that would eventually allow her to join the RCMP. The tests included a written assessment, an interview, a psychological assessment, a lie detector test and a test of physical fitness.

Phillips said that because the application process took so long, and there were so many stages, she kept pretty quiet about it, not wanting to get herself and her friends excited about something that she wasn’t sure would materialize.

“I was just looking at it like ‘I just have to pass this next step,’” she said.

It was about two months ago, after spending extra hours in the gym with a trainer to prepare for her final physical test, that Phillips found out she had been accepted and would be leaving to Regina for intensive training in mid-April. “I’m completely excited,” she told The CJN a few days before leaving.

Wearing the uniform of the RCMP was not always on Phillips’ list of goals, but in her third year of university that quickly changed. She attended a career fair for federal government jobs, where she learned about the more than 300 specialties you can choose from after completing two years of policing. 

Phillips realized that joining the RCMP would allow her to put her forensic psychology studies to good use. “When they were talking about it [at the career fair], it sounded perfect,” she said.

When she told her family of her plans, they were supportive, if a bit intrigued. “They were like, ‘OK, that sounds interesting,’” Phillips said with a laugh.

Now, they couldn’t be more excited for her. Her family has been jokingly referring to her training as a master’s program because of all the work they know lies ahead.

“Getting in is one thing, but passing the training is another step,” Phillips said. Phillips has joined about 32 other new RCMPers-to-be in her training troupe.

The men and women, many of whom are quite a bit older than Phillips and pursuing a second career, will be doing six months of paramilitary training, supplemented with mounds of homework and assignments. “They call it a constant job interview – everything you do has to be a pass,” she said.

But the tough training isn’t enough to scare Phillips away. She said she is eager to meet the many different types of people brought together by the RCMP.

Phillips knows she is likely to be one of the only Jewish women there, even though the trainees are coming from all different walks of life.

However, despite the lower number of Jewish people in the RCMP, during her interview process, Phillips met the first female Jewish officer in the RCMP by pure chance. Fran Saltzman is not only an RCMP officer, but also a rabbi’s wife. Meeting Saltzman helped Phillips realize she would not be alone as a female Jew in the RCMP.

In addition to meeting new people, Phillips is also excited to get involved with sports teams and the band, two of her many hobbies.

Throughout university, she made an effort to play pretty much any sport available to her.

“I dabbled in every sport because they always needed girls,” she said, remembering her eagerness to learn sports she had never played before, like lacrosse.

Phillips also plays flute, trumpet and guitar in her spare time. When she heard about the athletic and musical opportunities that would be available to her in the RCMP, it made the idea of training in Regina even better.

“It kind of fits all my interests,” she said. “It’s kind of perfect.”

Though Phillips lived on her own in residence in Mississauga, she said  moving to Regina will be an even greater level of independence. While she knows she’ll miss her family and friends, she thinks the temporary move will be good for her.

After training, she will eventually be placed to serve in another part of Canada.

Phillips has already been told that she won’t be able to serve in Ontario or Quebec, and she is hoping that she will be sent to either the West or East Coast when the time comes.

But for now, she’s focused on her journey to Regina, the first step along a rewarding career path. 

From there, she said, she’ll be able to move forward with her goals in the RCMP.

“I’m kind of excited for the adventure.”

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