When future RCMP officers returned to the RCMP Academy, Depot Division, in June, the day to day training operations have been forced to change due to the emergence of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan.

The facility was originally forced to close on March 19.

"We needed to stop training," Jas Breton, the Commanding Officer of Depot Division, A/Commr., said. "There was a lot of unknowns back in March, so we stopped training, we sent 16 troops home.

Breton said preparations for the return of cadets and instructors began as soon as the facility was closed. He said it needed to be sure it could provide the same level of training, while also keeping everyone at the Academy safe from COVID-19.

"Major adaptability," Breton said. "The plan includes so many processes and so many procedures to make sure that our staff number one and our cadets I'd say number one also are safe."

Out of the 16 troops sent home in March, 12 have returned to the Academy and three have graduated.

When cadets return to the base, they are required to self-isolate for two weeks. Breton said when cadets are in self-isolation, they are reviewing material that will prepare them for the start of training.

Cadets are also able to communicate with friends and family and can outside for a certain part of the day.

Breton said there are changes in training to protect everyone inside the Academy, but he said those changes haven't caused any training to be sacrificed.

"The standard hasn't changed," Breton said. "The expectations of the cadets, the standards they need to meet is the same. We've just adapted in the way we deliver the program so that we meet those standards."

Troops are split up into pods of four cadets when doing certain training that doesn't allow them to physically distance.

The Academy has taken measures to ensure equipment and rooms are all properly sanitized. It said it's doing all it can to prevent an outbreak. It also said, so far there have been no cases of COVID-19 at the facility.

"We actually have committees, set up nationally and internationally to share best practices of police academies all over the world, to make sure that we have the best plan in place," Breton said. "However, it's the reality, an outbreak could happen. We've been lucky so far, but if it does, we do have a plan in place.”

Breton said the shutdown of the Academy for a few months did create concern about RCMP staffing across the country.

"We were supposed to graduate 40 troops in fiscal year 2021, but now it looks based on the numbers and the analysis that we're doing, it's probably going to be more like 16 troops. We can do the math that the numbers are going to be a little bit lower for this year."