Group of NWMP and others, Saskatchewan, 1894
After visiting Ireland in 1880 and observing the practices of the Royal Irish Constabulary, Commissioner Acheson G. Irvine lobbied the government for a dedicated training facility for recruits. When headquarters was moved from Fort Walsh to Regina in 1883, preparations were underway for the establishment of Depot Division (which opened two years later, in 1885), to train and drill new members, and to establish professional practices and standards. Until then, new men were simply assigned to the various divisions and received training on the job.
Irvine was convinced that the Mounted Police, to be effective and professional, needed a central training depot. Ideally, all recruits would pass through Depot, although in the late 1880s, some men were still being assigned directly to their divisional postings. In 1886, Commissioner Herchmer, concerned that new recruits were not up to standard, insisted that all new men be on probation for a period of two months while at Depot. At the conclusion of the probationary period, those who were considered suitable were formally engaged as members.
Charles Dwight's experience was probably typical of recruits in the late 1880s and early 1890s. Dwight left Toronto in the spring of 1890 and traveled to Winnipeg where he worked at odd jobs. He spent several weeks as a sewing machine salesman. He met two English immigrants, one of whom was a veteran of the British Army. Together they joined the NWMP at Winnipeg.
They were quickly sent to Depot where they were subjected to stern discipline and assigned to menial chores. They also received training in the law, police practices, and the use of small arms and rifles. After three months of intensive training, Dwight was posted to Maple Creek in "A" Division where he was assigned to the Orderly Room.
After six months on the job, Constable Dwight -- who never pursued, let alone arrested any wrongdoer -- decided that police work was not for him. He bought his discharge. He returned to Winnipeg, spent some time in the United States and eventually returned to Toronto where he wrote Life in the North-West Mounted Police and Other Sketches, one of the rare published first-hand accounts by a NWMP member.