Local teens attend Youth Police Academy

Published 10:34 am Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Teenagers from all over Escambia County are attending the week long Youth Police Academy where they learn the ins and outs of law enforcement.

Over 30 youth with an interest in the work of law enforcement have invaded the campus and grounds of Jefferson Davis Community College in Brewton this week to take part in the annual Youth Police Academy.

The camp, which goes through Friday, July 20, began Monday with campers being shown presentations from Florida’s Escambia County SWAT team and learning how to march and do vehicle stops and building searches among other things that will be held during the week. Also, the campers stay in the dorms on campus.

Janet Richburg, a member of the staff of the Escambia County Sheriffs Department, heads up the weeklong camp in the Brewton setting.

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“So far things are going great for us this year,” Richburg said. “We are down to 32 students which seems to be a little bit better because our group is small. We are able to focus on and give more attention to the different presentations we have. It is a little bit easier to manage. So far, everyone seems to be enjoying it. The majority of our students are new this year with the exception of maybe five or six. I think it is going to be a good class this year.”

Richburg said the class this year will be busy with trips planned to various places in Brewton and throughout the county.

“We go to the firing range and let them shoot guns,” she said. “We run the agility course just like they would if they were going to the police academy. We go to the YMCA and teach them defensive tactics and defensive driving on the golf carts which they love. We have the department of forensic science coming in as well as the Florida SWAT team.”

Although the typical curriculum for the group is repeated year after year, Richburg said some changes have occurred this year.

“This year we are doing something different,” Richburg said. “We are going to the airport and do an aviation section and Life flight is coming in. The marine police will be there with their jet ski simulator and we are going to show off some of the aviation things that are available that we use in the county.”

Richburg said the camp is in its 12th year with the 2012 class.

“The focus is to give children in the community a glimpse of the different types of law enforcements,” she said. “In the future, they might decide on this as their career.”

On Monday, campers were able to visit inside Escambia County Florida’s SWAT vehicle—Bearcat.

SWAT team commander Mark Jackson —who has been on the team for 15 years — talked to the campers about what the team does.

“We have 25 members,” he said. “To be on our team you have to pass a fitness test, a shooting course and an oral interview. We execute search warrants and go to sites where people may have barricaded themselves in a house or building.

Campers saw the different weapons used by the team including a robot named “Wall-E.”

“We do not send dogs into a house,” Jackson said. “The person might have a gun and shoot the dog. If we send the robot in and they shoot that, it does not matter.”

Kristen Lee is one of the older campers this year at the Police Academy.

“This is my third year coming,” she said. “My older brother participated in it probably five years ago and he did it and said it was cool, so I started coming and liked it so I just keep coming back.

We do a self-defense day and we learn how to fight and do other things and I think that is a lot of fun. I am not sure what I am going to do yet, but I am definitely going to consider it.”

Deandra Walker, 12, is a first-year camper.

“This is my first year coming and I came out because I want to be a policeman when I grow up,” he said. “I look forward to seeing and hearing the police come hear and to learn more about what they do and his job. I like seeing the drug dogs and seeing the SWAT team and their different equipment that they use.”

This year campers will also learn about physical training, Internet safety, traffic investigation and dispatch.

Police Academy will end Friday with graduation at JDCC’s Patterson Auditorium at 6 p.m.