Lebanon Police Department’s latest group of young “recruits” graduated Friday.
More than 30 children and teens shared bits of information and tips they learned in the weeklong Youth Police Academy, held twice a year during Wilson County Schools breaks.
“It’s amazing just how much they absorb,” said Officer P.J. Hardy, coordinator for LPD’s Youth Police Academy and Citizens’ Police Academy.
Participants learned about the day-to-day activities of law enforcement, including crime scene procedures, SWAT responsibilities and basic forensic analysis such as “lifting” fingerprints and testing DNA.
“The basic model is for [participants] to come in and experience a full facet of what we do here at the Lebanon Police Department,” said Hardy.
The program included a tour of the LPD and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Nashville.
“They were seeing things [at TBI] that I had never seen before in 14-15 years of law enforcement,” said Hardy.
Other activities included an obstacle course and a mock crime scene the participants processed using skills taught during the program.
To Hardy, the team-building exercises were the most successful part of the program.
“The goal was to help them learn how to listen and communicate and take advantage of the diversity on the team,” said Hardy. “They were learning something without actually realizing they were learning.”
The YPA is one way Wilson County parents can keep their children engaged and away from gangs and drugs, according to Hardy.
“If you keep your children engaged, keep them active, that will typically keep them away from the negative things that they could get into,” said Hardy. “This is just one of the many programs available all throughout this great city that we live in that keeps children engaged.”
The academy is offered twice a year – during the second week of Wilson County Schools’ spring break and during the second week of fall break. Participants meet Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.
YPA, which is funded entirely by donations, is free to participants, as well as the LPD.
“We really pull from the community to get this done, and we are so thankful to the businesses and groups in our community that donate,” said Hardy.
Staff writer Sara McManamy-Johnson can be reached at 615-444-3952, ext. 16 or firstname.lastname@example.org.