The Parker Police Department held its first civic academy for teenagers July 22-25 in hopes of giving young people a better understanding of how law enforcement works. The youths, from ages 13 to 19, …
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The Parker Police Department held its first civic academy for teenagers July 22-25 in hopes of giving young people a better understanding of how law enforcement works. The youths, from ages 13 to 19, were given a one-week crash course on police investigation methods, tactics, tools, equipment and special skills.
Some of the attendees were cops in the making, like Jonathon Rodriguez Thomas, 14, of Legend High School. Others were just interested in law enforcement in general.
“It was more than what we usually see,” Thomas said. “We usually see patrol cars — maybe a few extra if there's something going on — but it's nice to know there's more than meets the eye.”
The kids shot tasers, solved a mock investigation, learned some hand-to-hand combat techniques and what to look for at a crime scene and met law enforcement officials from the K-9 unit, SWAT team and mounted patrol.
“The youth in Parker are super educated. They know what's going on in the world. They know what's going on in the country. They read the articles. They understand the issues,” Cmdr. Chris Peters said. “It's important for us to make that connection and what we thought is — we're not the inventors of a teen academy — but we have this thing that is super successful in Parker, which is the adult citizen academy, so let's do one that works for teens.”
The Parker Civic Academy is an 11-week program for adults that teaches the basics of town government, from public works to parks and rec and everything in between. The youth academy set out to shape a more positive image of Parker police officers, who pride themselves on community engagement.
“We've been trying for the last two years to find a way to better connect, communicate and tear down the distance between law enforcement and youth,” Peters said. “We can't just have a connection with one group of people (adults) in the community. Yeah, that's the group that pays the biggest taxes and does the voting, but we also serve a large amount of youth.”
Peters said the goal is to open a line of communication between youths and the department.
The first year of the Parker Teen Police Academy was a rough experiment, Peters said, and in the coming years, as more feedback is available, the academy will change to better fit the needs of kids. Bringing interactive educational opportunities was one area, Hans said, that the department hoped to improve on for next year.
Morgan Preston, 17, of Legend High School, said that after the youth academy she is excited to work toward becoming a member of a SWAT team. To her, law enforcement is a form of serving the greater community, which is why it is her dream to become a police officer. And, she said, now that she and so many others got a sneak peek of the department, it will allow them to spread a message about the police that contrasts much of what she sees on the news.
“I think news definitely lights a very bad image of the police,” Preston said. “At school I think it will be really good because I can take this experience and tell them 'This is what they do…they want to make everything safer for you.'”
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