Thunder Bay Police hit target with new youth engagement program
THUNDER BAY, Ont. — The newest youth engagement initiative by the Thunder Bay Police Service has hit the bullseye.
An eight-week introduction to archery program — called On Target Archery — began following a successful grant application from Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart program and support from Maamawe City of Thunder Bay Aboriginal Liaison. With the grant money, the service was able to purchase archery equipment and have nine officers trained as certified archery instructors through the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP).
Officers have ran and completed the program at St. Ann, Sherbrooke, St. Pius and St. Jude schools.
For School Resource Officer Frank Tropea, being able to interact with students as an archery instructor instead of a police officer has helped humanize him and his fellow officers in the eyes of those students.
“Being in uniform can sometimes shy kids away, sometimes they’re scared of the uniform,” Cst. Tropea said. “During the Archery program we just wear our regular clothes – jeans and a T-shirt – and the kids know us by our first names … so the kids have been able to talk to us like normal people, they’ve opened up to us and that’s what we want as police officers.”
As the north-side school resource officer, Cst. Tropea added that students who are comfortable casually speaking to officers will be more comfortable seeking them out when they’re in a time of need.
“It’s already happened this year,” he said. “We’ve had kids come up to us and talk about archery, and once they became comfortable enough they began opening up to us about some other stuff like issues that might be happening in the school.”
South-side school resource officer Cst. Jeff Saunders, also one of the nine certified archery instructors, has had similar experiences. Sometimes the positive interactions have even happened away from the school setting.
“I just had one of our students come up to me in the grocery store and give me a big hug,” Cst. Saunders said. “I had to explain to her mom that I was a police officer and had done the archery program with her daughter and I think it was a very positive experience. It kind of melted my heart a little, it was a very touching moment.”
The On Target Archery is expected to continue into the future, and Cst. Gary Cambly hopes it will continue to grow.
One of the first officers to receive the NASP certification, Cst. Cambly has been using archery as an ice-breaking engagement tool for years. The equipment purchased following the Jumpstart grant allowed Cst. Cambly to expand the ice-breaker into the full eight-week course.
That came with an enthusiastic response.
“There’s demand for (On Target Archery) across the City of Thunder Bay and in communities in the far north,” Cst. Cambly said.
Bringing engagement activities to communities in the far north is not uncharted territory for the police service. Community Service Branch officers visited a number of communities via the winter roads system in February, an initiative made possible through an Ontario Community Development grant, and through a variety of partnerships. (https://www.thunderbaypolice.ca/news/officers-continue-bridge-building-project-winter-road-trip)
Meanwhile, the service has been travelling to the far north to offer safety presentations and to offer assistance and advice to prospective high school students considering continuing their education in Thunder Bay for more than four years now.
“It’s been fun watching this program grow,” Cst. Cambly said. “It’s enjoyable, and it’s nice to see that people want it. It’s a fun way to go to work, and it’s a fun way to interact with kids.”
Track used from Youtube Audio Library: Moist, by Mikos Da Gawd.
Shot and edited by Scott Paradis, Thunder Bay Police Service