By Mary O’KEEFE
This week a group of teenagers from Glendale Unified School District was invited to experience what it is like to be a police officer. The Glendale Police Dept. hosted the teens at its first Teen Academy. The program lasts for six weeks with kids meeting every Wednesday at the Glendale police station. Students will learn from department experts about SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics), the detective bureau, communications, the duties of a patrol officer, traffic laws, GPD youth programs and what it means to be driving under the influence.
This is the first time GPD has offered this class. Chief Robert Castro came up with the idea for the program after the success of the department’s Citizens’ Academy. In that program community members are led through the same types of departments and actively learn what police do on a day-to-day basis.
The idea of a Teen Academy is to bridge law enforcement with local teens.
“We expose [the kids] to the diversity of police work from the lab, jail [department], communications and patrol. It is very similar to what [cadets] go through in our Explorer Program,” said Officer Michelle Gonzalez.
Gonzalez with Officer Minas Tsolakyan led the teens through discussions and guided the program.
On Wednesday the teens spent the morning learning how forensics are used in investigations. There were five different stations set up including a crime scene and fingerprinting station.
“This is a crime scene similar to one we just investigated,” said Allen Brogdon of the Forensic Bureau.
There were items on the ground with numbers next to them as well as a car door with what appeared to be bullet holes.
“Do you see any difference in the bullet holes?” Brogdon asked.
A teen said that one of the holes looked more like a puncture instead of the others, which were cleaner circles. Brogdon explained that particular bullet hole was made by a shot from inside the car while the others came from the exterior of the vehicle.
If suspects said they did not have a gun in the car this evidence would seem to prove their as claim as false.
The kids were taken to stations where Brogdon demonstrated how fingerprints can be found and how officers can lift those prints and how a chemical solution reacts with blood,
“After just the first class, it was evident to me that the teen participants were excited and eager to participate in this new outreach program,” said Chief Castro in a statement. “The youth are our future and I believe we must invest all we can to help them be successful.”
Gonzalez said she is hoping this program will give kids an idea of what police work is like and for those who are interested in a future in law enforcement it will give them a practical idea of what path they will need to take.
Brandon Budwig, a senior from Crescenta Valley High School, saw the GPD flyer at school and called Gonzalez.
“I thought it would be interesting,” Budwig said.
He has been surprised though by the classes and how hands-on the activities have been.
“I thought it was just going to be sitting in a classroom and listening to the [officers] talking but it has been more than what I expected,” he said. “Instead they are showing us what they do. So many [officers] have given their time to tell us their stories and share what they do. We get to see it through their eyes.”
“This is our future hiring pool,” Gonzalez said.