Three Sicamous women join RCMP ranks

Constables share challenges of training at the RCMP Academy in Regina.

Const. Colbie Franson in her red serge uniform after spending eight months in depot in Regina to become an RCMP officer.

Wake up at 5 a.m.

Get dressed, brush your teeth, eat breakfast.

Practise marching you’re performing in the the RCMP Sunset Ceremony.

Then classes begin.

This was how weekday mornings began for Ashley Allen, Colbie Franson and Ashley Gravelle while training in Regina at the RCMP Academy. The three women, former Sicamous residents, recently graduated from depot and have since been positioned in the South Interior.

Classes ran 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.: police defence, firearms training, hands-on arresting, physical training and learning the criminal code.

Then comes the hard part: competency classes, homework and weight training that is physically and mentally exhausting, in your “free time.”

Throw ironing your clothes, cleaning your room and polishing your boots into the mix before you pass out at 11 p.m.

The process of becoming a police officer is strict, challenging, but also rewarding.

Allen, 30, said her first time shining her boots took 10 hours.

“I didn’t realize there’s an improper way to do up buttons, but there is,” she said.

The weather was kind to her during her six-month stint, but the course was gruelling.

It wasn’t the physical aspect that got to her, but lack of time to rest and recover, she said.

“It’s not like what you see in the movies like with a navy seal boot camp.”

Learning to feel comfortable handling a gun was another challenge.

“If you’ve never shot a gun before it can be pretty intimidating. It took me a little while. There’s a gun in your hand and there’s bullets in it,” said Allen.

When she started, Allen wasn’t a natural shooter, explaining she was definitely not at the top of her class. She overcame her weakness by constantly spending time holding and dry firing the gun, as well as listening to soundtracks with shooting sounds, familiarizing herself with them.

“You can take someone’s life with this piece of equipment. It’s not a toy,” said Allen.

Allen also experienced homesickness for her family in the Shuswap.

It wasn’t all tedious training though Allen had weekends off.

“I was there in the summer so it was better than the winter, that’s for sure. It’s hard to be away from home. Just being away from my family was difficult.”

Her journey to become a police officer began because of her involvement with the fire department for seven years.

As a woman, Allen said she didn’t face any discrimination or difficulties finding acceptance in the academy, although the majority of cadets were male.

She estimated a ratio of 70-30.

“I grew up in a household full of boys and I’ve been on the fire department,” she said.

For Allen, the process to become an officer started with an information session, followed by an aptitude test. After filling out her history in an application package, there was a two-hour interview, then a polygraph test.

Allen also had to wait a year to retake the test.

“In hindsight it was great, at the time it was devastating,” she said.

Allen is now a constable in Vernon, and said she is fortunate to be placed in a city with diversity.

Colbie Franson, 26, was the opposite when it came to tactile learning.

The pair were in the same group for most of their training, with Franson staying for an extra two months.

Franson kept herself grounded with the physical actives in the academy, but struggled with the books during her eight-month stint in Regina.

“I’m a hands-on learner. The exams are tricky,” she said.

Franson had to learn how to take exams, looking for key words in multiple-choice answers, and did extra research on how to take exams.

She admits the training was tedious.

“When waking up at 5 a.m. you think, how am I going to get through another day,” she said, adding she ran on five hours of sleep a night with 12 hour days.

Before her training in Regina, she lived on a farm in Sicamous with her girlfriend and visited family members also in the area.

Her father, Cal Franson said he is proud of his daughter being an officer with the RCMP.

Before going to depot, Colbie attended university in Kamloops, intent on becoming a P.E. teacher. But it was during a Thanksgiving dinner that her brother convinced her to try a different pursuit.

Const. Franson is stationed for Kamloops.