Junior Police Academy Gives Youths an Inside View of Law Enforcement
FLOWER MOUND – Sixteen eighth graders are held hostage on a school bus, hands held above their heads, a SWAT team armed with pistols and rifles charges the bus, shouting orders and disarming the woman who was keeping the children captive during this mock police raid.
Eighth-grader Sarah Ross said the SWAT team drill experience was more real than she expected.
“It was a little nerve-racking at times—the yelling and hitting the seats—but I’m still glad I signed up for this," she said.
Ross had enrolled for a week's worth of true-to-life experiences at the Junior Police Academy sponsored by the Flower Mound Police Department. About 20 eighth graders were given the chance to tour the town's $53 million police and Municipal Court facility on Kirkpatrick Lane and to see police work firsthand.
Barron Smith, a resource officer for Flower Mound middle schools and an instructor in the program, said the Police Department wants to develop trust with the adolescents.
"We want kids' first interaction with police officers to be positive," he said, "I hope kids take a better understanding of what we do.”
"I know from experience that if I can build a relationship with a few of the kids and develop their trust, then it provides a safer environment and kids come to me with their concerns.”
The academy included a trip to a holding cell. Two prisoners had to be temporarily moved, as required by law, before the children could enter. Officers described the not-so-tasty cuisine at the jail and the detoxification cell.
The youngsters then toured a high-tech dispatch room and learned some of the complexities that police officers face when responding to 911 calls. They include working in a growing community where streets are built so fast that they do not yet appear on maps.
Other highlights for the youths included accompanying officers on mock traffic stops, writing tickets and participating in a staged traffic accident involving a cyclist and a vehicle.
They also got to try a motor vehicle case in the Municipal Court building with an instructor presiding. Youths assumed the roles of prosecutors, defense attorneys and jurors. A trip to Alliance airport in north Fort Worth rounded of the activities with a tour of the facility and a close-up view of a Drug Enforcement Administration helicopter.
Dustin Henkelmann, an eighth-grader at McKamy Middle School in Flower Mound, said he may consider a career in law enforcement.
"I think I've wanted to be a police officer for about a year now, and I thought this would be a fun and exciting job,” he said. "My favorite part was going to see where all of the officers work and seeing what their daily life is like.”
The Flower Mound Police Department will offer the Junior Police Academy again next summer. A Citizens Police Academy for adults is scheduled for August. For information, call the Police Department at (972) 874-3314.