By STEPHANIE AZEVEDO
A paranoid-schizophrenic is about to commit suicide. You’re a police officer called to the scene. What do you do?
For second-year Police Foundations students that’s the question. They are coming together with the Acting for Film and Television program students to train for three weeks in conflict management.
In the two shooting ranges at the Niagara Regional Police Services building at the Welland campus, the open spaces are transformed into realistic streets and houses.
"It wasn’t any one person’s idea," says Dean David Veres about the collaboration.
The two programs came together when Joe Picton, a part-time teacher and police officer, along with Constable Kris Hamilton, found that community volunteers were sometimes unavailable. They discussed this with Veres.
"I said, ‘What about our acting students?’" says Veres.
They called Martin Doyle, co-ordinator for the Acting for Film and Television program, and began to talk about the possibilities.
The conflict management classes began near the start of this semester, led by Hamilton.
Inside the range the actors are given their roles. The door is opened on the waiting police students, and in pairs they are allowed into the scene to take care of domestic disputes, break and enters, highway infractions and potential suicides.
"Last night we were sluts and pimps, and we had to make the police as uncomfortable as possible," says acting volunteer Paige Cody.
"It’s a lot of fun," continues Carly Nicole. Although she is in Early Childhood Education, Cody, her friend of seven months, convinced her to volunteer. "At first I was just going to watch."
The two women acted three times during the week, but it was acting student Shaun Ferguson’s first time. Although he specializes in magic tricks, he says that acting for police students "helps us flex our improv[ization] muscles."
"You gotta keep at it, otherwise it tends to decline," Ferguson laughs.
Doyle says the program is "very lucrative for the actors."
"I think from the point of film and television that they’re interacting with people who are real, so they have to be real. … If they’re not believable it takes the real person out of the scene."
For the police students, the scenarios are not exactly voluntary. They can choose to not participate, but they have an exam that uses these scenarios. If they choose to take part in the practice they can choose their partners for the exam.
"We’re doing a practical, pretty much the same as what we’re doing here," says police student Wes Smith.
"If you don’t go, you don’t get to pick your partner for the exam," says Antonio Mukherjee.
Mukherjee and Smith say they expected the training to be like this. For their classmate Aaron Campbell, figuring out the common law authority, the ability to enter houses without the permission of the occupants, became difficult.
"At the beginning it was pretty easy, but it was hard to figure out the rest … especially the authority to enter the house with exigent circumstances." Exigent circumstances occur when a warrant is not practical because of emerging circumstances.
Mukherjee says the police course at Niagara College provides opportunities that other colleges might not have, as the Niagara Regional Police building is on hand.
"It’s a lot of good experience. The police give you one-on-one pep talks."
There are talks of making the acting-police foundation collaboration permanent, says Doyle.
"We still have to work it out to see if there’s any way to justify working it into the curriculum."
Doyle says a similar program exists where acting and police students again come together to practise report writing. It is not as popular as its conflict management counterpart though, due to time constraints.
No other such program exists, as of yet, that mixes acting with another program, though there’s potential.
Doyle cites that customer services for automotives students, or acting as patients once the nursing building is prepared are both possible.
"There certainly have been talks … but scheduling is difficult," Doyle says.