© Geraldine Brophy
Co-op student program members Olivia Sheppard, left, and Jenelle Park, are seen with Sgt. Rich Wheeler of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.
CORNER BROOK — It looks like there may be a mock murderer on the loose in the Corner Brook area and it’s up to two high school students to solve the case and make an arrest.
This is not the first time the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary has accepted two students from Corner Brook Regional High School’s co-op program to spend time with the police force and see what a career in policing is like.
In the past, co-op students were exposed to the inner workings of the RNC headquarters and would get a chance to head out on a few ride-alongs with the street patrol unit.
Jenelle Park did go for a couple of patrols and Olivia Sheppard did spend some time in the communications centre where 911 calls come in but, in a new twist introduced this year, they have also been given the task of trying to take on a major crime investigation.
They have been given a mock scenario involving a man found dead in his apartment shorty after he left a Halloween party at a downtown bar. There were signs of a struggle in the apartment and the man’s death has been determined to be from blunt force trauma to the head.
The two special constables have been given the lowdown on the man’s personal life and his situation at work. They have spent the past couple of weeks conducting interviews with witnesses and persons of interest.
“There’s a lot more that goes on behind the scenes than you might think,” said Park. “You think they just go there and solve it at the crime scene.”
As they have quickly found out, a police investigation can be a painstaking process as every tip and lead must be checked out. Sometimes, new information or inconsistencies in witness statements come to light and cause the investigators to go back to the beginning and take another look at what they have figured out so far.
“You think you’ve got it solved and then what you thought happened gets completely wiped out and you have to start over again,” said Park.
Sheppard said it’s hard to describe the experience she and Park have been having conducting their investigation.
“I have been debating becoming a cop for a couple of years,” said Sheppard. “This has really helped me realize this is a career path I want to take.”
In addition to learning how important it is for investigating officers to keep meticulous notes of their observations, the two have also been learning what information they can and cannot share with the public through the media.
“No, it’s still an ongoing investigation,” said Park when asked if they are close to making an arrest. “We’re trying our hardest right now to investigate every little thing.”
Sheppard was equally tight-lipped.
“We’ve talked to a lot of people of interest, but we are not able to reveal their names where it’s an ongoing investigation,” she said.
If they can pinpoint someone, Park and Sheppard will learn how to make a proper arrest and give evidence about their investigation at a mock trial.