A group of local children had the opportunity to discover what it is like to walk in the shoes of a law enforcement officer this week.
The week-long Thomasville Police Department Junior Law Enforcement Academy, designed to teach children what police officers and other law enforcement officials, do on a daily basis, started Monday. Twenty-eight campers, ages 12-15, got to see if they have what it takes to wear a badge.
The program consisted of classroom lectures and hands-on demonstrations about the SWAT team, K-9, crime scene investigation, Taser training, target practice with paint ball guns, GBI, crime lab, GBI bomb qquad, Georgia State Patrol, Georgia Department of Corrections, EMS and others.
On Thursday, officers Chris Baggett and Matthew Griffin with the Thomasville Police Department instructed the campers on how to safely conduct a traffic stop.
After showing the campers how to properly stop a driver for a violation, Baggett told them respect is very important.
He said, “When you check the person’s driver’s license, it is important to then call them by their last name. It shows respect for them. People will try to make you angry, but it’s important to continue to show respect. It’s about keeping you safe.”
The officers then had the campers play the role of police officer. They reenacted real scenarios they had experienced in the field. Some were humorous, such as an angry driver throwing chicken bones at an officer.
Harrison Vance, 14, enjoyed all the hand-on activities.
“I liked the activities like the traffic stops and the stress course. It’s been a great experience,” he said.
Vance learned information that he thinks is valuable from the railroad police and other officers.
He said, “He taught us how important it is to stay off railroad tracks and safety. After this camp, I will be more respectful for law enforcement and show more respect when I see them because I now know what they do everyday.”
Dorothy Thompson, 15, found the information from the bomb squad and the U.S. marshal to be entertaining and informative.
“With the bomb squad, we got to see stuff explode,” she said. “I learned that some stuff may not look like a bomb, but may be one.”
Thompson believes a U.S. marshal job is the most exciting.
She said, “I think it would be interesting to be a U.S. marshal because they get to catch the really bad guys.”
For almost a decade, the Thomasville Police Department Junior Law Enforcement Academy has been showing children the in and outs of being a law enforcement officer.
Lt. Eric Hampton said, “It gives the kids a chance to see a variety of law enforcement opportunities. They see the positive things we do in the community, too, and that we are actually people and not just police officers.”
According to Hampton, the success of the camp is found in the faces and words of the campers.
“It’s a successful program because they come up to us and tell us they enjoy it and want to go into the field,” said Hampton. “We are glad to put on these positive programs. It is a positive atmosphere for them to learn and it can lead them down a positive path.”
Reporter Susanne Reynolds can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1826.