By Travis Poland

Canada has more than a million kilometers of roads and only 40 per cent are paved. Chances are, police are bound to hit some rough patches. That’s why the RCMP is training its newest officers on an all-terrain vehicle course, which was opened at Depot, the RCMP’s training academy, in 2018.

‘It helps build confidence,” says Cpl. Heather Munro, a former driving instructor at Depot. “We have some cadets who have never driven on gravel or never drove a truck.”

The course takes cadets through 18 obstacles that include pools of water, low-visibility curves and rutted roads preparing them for the worst the environment can offer. It reinforces lessons from the highway driving course and how those skills apply in a backroad context.

Learning how to negotiate rough roads is especially important for cadets heading to rural and northern detachments. Some communities are entirely without paved roads and investigations can involve remote logging roads and winter roads over frozen lakes and packed snow.

The cadets drive the course in pickup trucks, a common police vehicle at remote detachments. Instructors highlight the difference between high and low four-wheel drive gearing and when each gear works best.

“Normally it’s one gear for forward or one for reverse, but it’s important to know the different gear options for different terrain,” says Cst. Renata Ephraim, who works at the Grand Rapids detachment in Manitoba.

“Knowledge is power,” says Ephraim, “Having knowledge of the different terrain and scenarios the vehicle can handle gives you confidence.”

Obstacles like the course’s angled berms help teach spatial awareness and a truck’s limits.

“They always think they’ll roll the truck, but they won’t,” says Munro.

The off-road course is a part of the 67 hours of driving training cadets receive at Depot. Before it opened, cadets trained on Regina’s rural roads.

“The course gives a safe and controlled environment for the obstacles and takes it further than we could on a gravel road drive,” says Munro.

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