Sometimes, being a law enforcement officer is about working with the K-9 unit, chasing criminals and detonating bombs. But the job isn’t always exciting. Officers also spend plenty of time doing paperwork and making appearances in court.
A group of 32 kids, ages 12 to 14, learned about police officers’ work last week at the Lee’s Summit Junior Police Academy.
The free program happens once each summer for a week, and kids have to apply with references to get accepted.
“The stuff they get most excited about is the visual things they can see and put their hands on. They love being hands-on, doing what real police officers do,” said D.A.R.E. Officer Amanda Geno, who has been running the summer program for about six years.
She likes to see the kids getting excited about police work but gives them a realistic picture of what the life of an officer entails.
“We had court on Tuesday, and I think they thought court was going to be much more interesting, like they see on TV,” Geno said. “I think they thought there was going to be people yelling, screaming, people getting handcuffed, a judge banging her gavel. It was just a normal boring court day.”
Wednesday morning, the kids practiced lifting fingerprints and using DNA swabs on soda cans, and learned more about the difference between TV and reality in law enforcement.
“If we do lift a fingerprint on scene and we send it off to the lab for a comparison, you’re looking at six to 12 months before we hear back from the lab on that,” Detective James Treacy said to the group.
Some of the kids are just looking for one more thing to do with their summer breaks. Others are interested in a career with the police, the military or a federal agency.
“I like that this can give me life skills to know what to do in different situations,” said Violet Wright, 12.
Twelve-year-old Vindi Simpson said she wants to either be a K-9 officer or a mounted police officer.
Gabby Nichols, 13, said she really liked the crime scene lesson. She didn’t realize police officers had to dust surfaces with powder and use tape to get copies of fingerprints.
Another lesson had the kids standing on the sidewalk in front of the police station, aiming a radar speed device at passing cars to see how traffic cops do their job.
“It was just funny to see them slow down when they see you,” said Emily Abraham, 12.
The day the kids met the police dogs was also popular.
“We have the mean dogs that can find drugs, and the nice (search and rescue) dogs that are very social, good with people and love to be petted,” Geno said. “I always like that day, because I can show them both sides of the dogs and how we can use them and how well-trained they are.”
The program is a team effort at the department. Geno has officers who specialize in each of the categories come in to present what they do. At least 12 people from the police department participated in teaching the group.
During the school year, Geno teaches second-, fourth- and sixth-graders at eight schools for the D.A.R.E. program. She recommends the junior academy to some of her sixth-graders and thinks that contributed to a fairly even gender split in participants this year.
“There are a lot of females who are interested. A lot of them I had in D.A.R.E., so I think that helps a lot to be taught by a female officer,” Geno said.