Thunder Bay Police hit target with new youth engagement program

Incident Date
Friday, July 5, 2019 - 14:30
Location
Thunder Bay
Date Published: 2019-07-05
By Scott Paradis,
Thunder Bay Police Service

THUNDER BAY, Ont. – A new youth engagement initiative by the Thunder Bay Police Service has hit the bullseye. 

A seven-week introduction to archery program -- called On Target Archery -- began following a successful grant application to Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart program and with 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). 

So far officers have 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 police in the eyes of those students. 

“Being in uniform can sometimes shy kids away, sometimes they’re scared,” 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.”

Cst. Tropea added that students who are comfortable casually speaking to officers will be more comfortable seeking them out when they’re in need or trouble. 

“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.” 

On Target Archery is expected to continue, and Cst. Gary Cambly hopes it will keep growing.   

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 seven-week course. 

That expansion was met with an enthusiastic response from schools, students, parents and community leaders. 

“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, for more than four years now, 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.

Just like other engagement activities, the regular far north visits are made possible thanks to partnerships – in particularly with ongoing support and assistance from the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service .

“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.”  

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