Chil­dren learn at ju­nior po­lice acad­emy

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - TRACY M.NEAL Tracy M. Neal can be reached by email at tneal@nwaon­line.com or Twit­ter @NWATracy.

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

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF

Cpl. Ralph Bart­ley talks to young­sters dur­ing a mock traf­fic stop, part of demon­stra­tions Wed­nesda for youths in the Po­lice Ath­letic League in Ben­tonville.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF

Deputy Matt Nad­ing talks to young­sters Wed­nes­day dur­ing a Po­lice Ath­letic League event at the Ben­ton County Sher­iff’s Of­fice in Ben­tonville.

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