Teen Police Academy brings students behind scenes in policing

Area students who have attended the Miami County Sheriff’s Office Teen Police Academy say they enjoyed the experience and gained insight into how law enforcement works.

Sheriff Dave Duchak says students don’t have to be interested in a law enforcement career to get something out of the academy. Its goal is to spread the word about the roles and responsibilities of police officers and others in law enforcement.

“We want you to see more of what they do. We get hit with so much negativity, second guessing, we want you to get our message out,” the sheriff told a dozen participants in the sheriff’s department’s second academy held from March through May.

“I like to see how everything works,” said Aly Jordan, an Edison State Community College student who attended the academy.Her mother encouraged Jordan to become involved because of Jordan’s interest in TV forensic- and science-related programs. She may pursue work as a corrections officer, Jordan said.

“There is a lot in the media nowadays about how an officer did this, how it was a faulty call. I would like to get the inside of it so that way I can say, ‘No, that is not really how it happens,’” Stevens said.

He was impressed with an academy class visit to the county centralized dispatch center for police, fire and emergency medical services in Troy.

“I might start in dispatch and work my way up. I can think quickly. You are kind of the first line of defense,” Stevens said of emergency dispatchers.

This was the second year for the Teen Police Academy, which was patterned after a success program the department held for adults.

Deputy Warren Edmondson, a school resource officer for the department, said Duchak was approached and liked the concept. With his OK, school leaders and guidance counselors were brought into the process.

Participants meet other students from across the county along with members of law enforcement, Edmondson said.

“They tell other kids that cops aren’t as bad as the media says,” he said.

Among topics during the 12-week program were narcotics, traffic crash investigations, homicide investigations, the county jail and police, fire and emergency medical services.

The last night of the academy, students checked out vehicles and equipment used by the Special Response Team and participated in mock negotiations intended to end a stand-off or hostage situation.

“When we are called out almost all other resolutions have been utilized,” said Lt. Todd Tennant in discussing the SRT, known by some departments as SWAT. “When we are out there, it’s serious.”

An ability to identify quickly with people is a key for SRT members and hostage negotiators, said Edmondson, who does hostage negotiations.

Academy members were paired up to role-play negotiating, first with Edmondson serving as the uncooperative suspect holed up in a house, and later with students using negotiators’ communications equipment in attempting to contact a person holding hostages.

Rileah Branscomb, a Bethel High School sophomore, said she was “quick to jump” when she heard the teen academy was being offered.

“I’ve always found it really interesting,” she said of law enforcement. “I have learned so much about dispatching, the actual jails and what goes on. It is so much different than what people say it is.”

Branscomb said she’s interested in possibly being a corrections officer after high school to get used to dealing with people before she turns 21 and can attend a police academy.

“I would do it again,” she said of the academy. “It is fun.”


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