Children learn at junior police academy
BENTONVILLE — Jonah Warren wants to be a police officer and a SWAT team member when he grows up.
Jonah, 12, was one of 54 participants who attended the Benton County Sheriff’s Office’s Police Athletic League junior police academy that ended Friday.
Chris Sparks, president of the PAL Board, said the junior police academy started in 2009 and this year’s class was the largest. Participants ages 6 to 14 came from throughout the county. Sparks is a former sheriff’s deputy and has remained involved with the program.
There’s no charge to attend the academy.
Jonah said he enjoyed learning more about police work, especially watching the SWAT team in action. The team put on a demonstration where it cleared a house and found some of academy participants hiding inside.
“It was fun when they found us inside the training house,” Jonah said.
Jayden Boyd, 11, said her favorite part of the week-long academy was when deputies simulated a traffic stop. Some of the junior cadets were in the vehicle.
They had to make up responses to questions from deputies. Jayden pretended to be the mother of two boys in the academy. She said they were on their way to New York to visit her mother. An envelope with shredded paper was hidden in the car. A deputy and his police dog searched the vehicle and found the supposed drugs in the car.
“We got to see how the dogs help and find drugs,” Jayden said.
Devon Wallestedt, 13, liked the bomb squad’s demonstration using a robot. Devon said he was scared of police officers before the academy, but now says, “they are pretty cool.”
Sgt. Shannon Jenkins, spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office, said scenarios at the academy hopefully give children an inside look at how deputies spend their work days.
The academy stresses team building and working together, and having children get to know law enforcement better, Jenkins said. The majority of the children were referred by school counselors, Jenkins said.
“Some of the children were reluctant and nervous to be around law enforcement, but around the second day they found a new trust and outlook that they never had before,” Jenkins said.
“We got to see how the dogs help and find drugs.”
— Jayden Boyd, age 11
Cpl. Ralph Bartley talks to youngsters during a mock traffic stop, part of demonstrations Wednesda for youths in the Police Athletic League in Bentonville.
Deputy Matt Nading talks to youngsters Wednesday during a Police Athletic League event at the Benton County Sheriff’s Office in Bentonville.