Constable Bill Peterson really wanted to be a hockey player when he grew up. That dream did not last very long. I wasn’t good enough to make it at a high level, he laughs.
Though he didn’t follow a traditional route on his journey to becoming a Mountie, his story is still one that can serve as a lesson, especially with the kids he works with.
He grew up in Port Coquitlam. He stopped attending high school and was short the necessary credits to graduate. He worked various sales jobs, and in the tooling section for construction of the Golden Ears Bridge. But it wasn’t a career that satisfied him.
By the time I had two young daughters, I knew how important it was to be an example to them, and so in 2007 I completed my high school education. I wanted my kids to know you had to at least have a high school education in order to get a respectable job.
Cst. Peterson, has never shied away from talking about his past, whether he is making career presentations or doing one on one work with youth in the community. I don’t want anyone to think they don’t have what it takes to have a career they can be proud of. He always refers back to his own his life choices and how he chose not to graduate at that time but how you can always make the necessary changes to get on a different path to success.
An officer with the RCMP for eight years, having graduated Depot in 2011, Cst. Peterson is still in his first posting with the Coquitlam RCMP. He started his career as a general duty frontline officer. Then he transferred to Traffic Services for three and a half years. From there he moved to the Youth Detail Section where he currently works as a School Liaison/Youth Detail Officer. Though he spends a lot of time within schools in the Coquitlam area, the mandate is working with youth at risk.
A particular interaction that really resonated with Cst. Peterson was having a mother call him and ask him to come to the school. I wasn’t sure where she got my phone number as this was not a school that I typically worked at. The mother said her 16-year old son sold drugs but wanted to stop. I dropped everything to attend to the school to meet with the pair.
The boy was upset that his mother had divulged this sensitive information to a police officer, however it still gave me the opportunity to speak with the young man. They sat down and discussed a safety plan, how the boy could get out of a life of selling drugs, and how Cst. Peterson could help him. Cst. Peterson gave him some food for thought, such as what restraints would be placed on him if he continued down this road and ever wanted to travel.
I was able to connect with the youth and relate to him which allowed the boy to feel like he could open up. Cst. Peterson convinced him to start attending class regularly and correct his lifestyle. They continued to stay in touch regularly for close to two years. What made this situation unique was that the teen was ready to change he just needed a nudge in the right direction. According to Cst. Peterson, you can make those mistakes at a young age and learn from them. You can always correct your behaviour, but the longer you wait, those decisions will have more serious consequences.
School Resource Officers days are dedicated to their cell phones and their schools. In Coquitlam there are six dedicated School Resources Officers serving over 70 schools in the district. Cst. Peterson is assigned to 16 of them, which includes elementary, secondary, and alternate schools. His objective in this role is to create a positive environment for the kids and build trusting relationships so that the students know they have someone they can turn when they need help.
Cst. Peterson currently makes presentations to high schoolers and law classes who want to know what the recruitment process is. But because he works with so many different age groups, he also makes presentations that focus on bullying and cyberbullying. He has presented to parents on the dos and don’ts of their child having a cell phone, as well as what to look for on a child’s phone. Along with other officers in Coquitlam, he also runs the junior Mountie camp for kids aged 9-14.
The program is free and so the hope is that children that might be at risk or less fortunate have the opportunity to take part in a program that fosters healthy interactions with police officers.
The RCMP has given Cst. Peterson many opportunities which is something he likes to impart on the youth he interacts with. Within the RCMP he could spend his whole career doing one thing, or take advantage of the nearly 150 different options offered by the RCMP across Canada. You can start out with nothing but an application, go to Regina, and come out with a career you could be proud of, said Cst. Peterson. Strive for something that makes you happy, that’s what is important. Whatever you choose in life, make sure that is what you want to do.
His lasting message is that you can always overcome your choices and choose a different route.
The RCMP is looking for individuals with unique background that bring these experiences to their job. If you are interested in a career with the RCMP please visit our Recruiting page for more information and how to apply: