By: Caitie McRae

An Ottawa police constable sayas that a police foundations diploma isn’t enough to get you hired as a cop.

That’s what Cst. Marc Soucy, who graduated from the program under its former name, law and security, says and despite the rewarding career the program has afforded him, Soucy says the diploma doesn’t make graduates a shoo-in for the force.

“Becoming a police officer is very competitive,” the Ottawa Police Service officer said. “If we have a choice between a college student and a university student, we’re going to go with the person who has more education.”

Further, the intense competition for positions in the police force is not made clear to students until the second year of the course, after students have already enrolled, said Emily Carriere, a 2007 honours graduate from the program.

“They told us only a few of us would actually become cops,” Carriere, now 24, said, adding that out of her 30 closest peers in the group “none of them are working in law enforcement.”

Algonquin’s police foundations webpage makes it clear that a career in law enforcement is not guaranteed upon graduation and that “it is up to the graduate to prepare themselves to be hirable in the field.”

However, like Carriere, the program’s two-year span means the majority of graduates are receiving diplomas at the age of 20. According to the Ottawa Police Services Act, they’ve already exceeded their requirements; the act states applicants must have, at minimum, a high school diploma.

“That’s the bare minimum. Nobody gets hired at that stage,” Cst. Soucy said. “Most of the police forces now are looking for people with life experience, so they’re not hiring 20-year-olds.”

Soucy believes that in light of the preference for police service applicants with life experience and a university degree, the ‘police foundations’ title is a misnomer because the program isn’t just for individuals desiring a career in law enforcement.

“It’s too narrow-minded,” Soucy said. “The course I took was not only for aspiring police officers but it was also good for private security work, jail guards, social workers and so on.”

Police foundations co-ordinator Sharleen Conrad-Beatty, however, defends the title of the program.

“I like the name,” Conrad-Beatty said. “The program is providing building blocks towards whatever they want to do and that’s where the ‘foundation’ part comes in. This is where they should start.”

However, Conrad-Beatty echoes Soucy’s belief that students should strive for an additional degree after a police foundations diploma, especially in Ontario where hiring is fairly low.

“Well, it’s the cream of the crop who’ll get picked. We talk to students about building their assets. Volunteering and going onto university are options because it allows students to build competencies,” she said.

A poll conducted on the Facebook group for the 2014 graduating class reveals that the majority of police foundations students yearn for a career in law enforcement, but Cst. Soucy says age and inexperience certainly don’t mean the end of the road for graduates.

“You can always continue your education and get a degree, because most police forces won’t look at you until you’re 25 or so,” he said.