Junior police academy offers hands-on experience

Posted: Thursday, June 17, 2010

Twelve-year-old Rosie Dorrian stopped her attacker with an impact thrust. Then stepping slightly forward for additional power, she drove her elbow into the chest of her attacker, who let our a winded groan.

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Photos By Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Photos By Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

"That was a nice punch," Juneau Police Department officer Jason Van Sickle said, watching Dorrian practice with officer Kathy Underwood.

Underwood, who played the role of the villain, was teaching self defense to youths during the Juneau Police Department's second annual Junior Police Academy Wednesday morning.

"She's a natural at this," the officer said. "She is pretty shy, but in self-defense she shines."

The Junior Police Academy started its first session of the summer Monday. That class will graduate today at noon with a barbecue to follow. Class space is open in two more four-day sessions, July 19-22 and Aug. 16-19.

The academy was an idea from JPD sergeant David Wrightson based on similar national programs. Officers Van Sickle and Blaine Hatch designed and implemented the curriculum, gearing it for students entering sixth and seventh grade as part of the department's community outreach plan. The two lead cadets through the training.

"We hope they get a basic understanding of some of the things we do in law enforcement," Van Sickle said. "We try to show them what it is really like ... the difference between reality and what they see on TV. We try to do as much hands-on stuff as possible and have some fun. We had a really good response last year."

The days begin with a roll call, and each cadet is to ensure they have their furnished hat, T-shirt and notebook. Cadets keep time-headed notes before, during, and after each lesson, just as in the real police academy. They single file into a JPD classroom and make footprint casts and take finger prints, do criminal science investigation and shoot an actual Glock pistol.

"I did it last year and it was really fun," 12-year-old Mark Puliafico said. "I needed a summer camp to do and this was pretty nice. We learn what officers do and the tools they use."

Wednesday started at 8 a.m. in a briefing room. Five minutes later they move to another classroom with mats for a warm up exercise and self defense instruction. They throw elbows, punches and round kicks.

At 8:45 a.m., the cadets attend Team Building in the parking lot area. Their mission is to stand on a plastic tarp and turn it upside down with out touching the ground. They also form a circle with a cadet in the middle, who has to trust them when he falls.

At 9:05 a.m. they return indoors for a course about alcohol and drunk driving. As they march upstairs a command is given.

"Make a hole," a cadet yells.

As a sign of respect, the cadets flatten themselves against the wall to allow a janitor to pass. This is done for everyone, and each person is greeted as a "Sir" or "Ma'am."

"This is exactly like a real academy," officer Carl Lundquist said. JDHS grad Lundquist joined JPD in February and returned from the police academy two weeks ago. "This is a lot of the same kind of stuff, just a shorter version."

Lundquist would aid Hatch in teaching the cadets field tests for driving under the influence. They learn that 30 percent of accidents are caused by alcohol. They study molecules and videos and each gets a chance to wear "inebriation goggles" in field testing.

At 10 a.m., the group attends an accident investigation class. They follow the accident from an initial report through to dispatch and eventually to officers arriving at the scene. They also learn that a JPD patrol car will drive 40,000 miles in a year and that half of all police officer deaths nationwide occur at the scene of an accident.

At 11 a.m., the cadets file outside to study a simulated accident scene. They fill out detailed reports and crouch low in search of the smallest detail, scratching their heads as they make assessments. Next they learn to ignite flares and set up an accident perimeter.

At 11:45 a.m., in a single-file line they move inside for the last time to discuss the accident, file a report and learn what it takes to keep citizens safe.

"It is really interesting," 12-year-old Andrew Clark said. "I would like to be a police officer. Watching them do the CSI stuff is actually really fun. We have a lot of hands-on experience.

• Contact Klas Stolpe at klas.stolpe@juneauempire.com.

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