Kids can learn the ropes of being a police officer in new program

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published May 13, 2019

 K-9 Niko wears his police badge. Police dogs will be part of the Youth Law Enforcement Academy.

K-9 Niko wears his police badge. Police dogs will be part of the Youth Law Enforcement Academy.

Photo provided by the Shelby Township Police Department

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Calling all Shelby Township fifth and sixth graders. Have a dream of becoming a policeman or policewoman? Come out and join the Shelby Township Police Department for its first-ever Shelby Youth Law Enforcement Academy for school-aged children.

The program will take place on the township municipal grounds Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 15-26.

The Shelby Township Police Department said the program will teach students teamwork, leadership, communication skills, and give them an introduction to skills and equipment used by first responders on a daily basis.

Students will work toward solving a “mock crime” during the course.

The students will train in a structure that is similar to a real police academy, including physical training, hands-on projects and classroom presentations.  

“We hope that we create a memorable and fun experience where the children (can) build confidence and skills including communication, teamwork and leadership,” Sgt. Brandon Dowty, who is in charge of the program, said in an email.

“We also hope the children graduate from the academy with a strong foundation on the various components and necessary preparation for a police department to be successful. We are thankful to have coordinated with (the) Shelby Township Fire (Department), who will assist with teaching CPR and first aid,” he said.

Some big topics to be covered will include laws of arrest, search and seizure, defense tactics, crime scene investigation, report writing, team building, tactical response, K-9, traffic stops and first aid/CPR.

Dowty said he is looking forward to seeing the program happen, and many of the officers are also looking forward to working with the children to show them what it’s like to be an officer.

“I am excited to see this program finally come into fruition. It has consisted of over a year of planning, where I sat down and interviewed other jurisdictions that run similar programs. After this research, it was concluded that the age group is ideal for this type of academy. We have a team of highly esteemed officers that are looking forward to working with the children, and they are dedicated to this becoming a great success,” said Dowty.   

This program is free to Shelby Township residents, and the department hopes that this program helps to build a stronger community and teaches children valuable skills.

“In 2018, our department established the Community Services Unit. You will see our CSU team at various community events. We not only educate the public on crime and trends, but also get the opportunity to listen to the public and their voiced concerns. We strive to create and maintain partnerships with our community residents and business owners. Through these open lines of communication, we get to work with the community to address identified issues,” Dowty said.

He said this was Police Chief Robert Shelide’s vision to bring the community together and show children what police officers do in their daily jobs.

“Chief Shelide had a vision to bring this to our community. Our primary goal is to establish a connection that we hope extends beyond this program. It should be noted that the majority of these children are expected to attend our high schools, where they will already have met our school resource officers through this program. We also hope that the children embrace our values and apply them to their everyday life moving forward,” Dowty said.

Shelide said that exposing young people early on to police work can create more interest in the job.

“We are so excited about this program and cannot wait to get it off of the ground,” said Shelide. “Law enforcement has been under attack by the mainstream media since the ‘Ferguson, MO incident’ a few years back. We have found out as a law enforcement community that we are not getting the quantity of young persons interested in law enforcement as we did in the past. There have been many debates and discussions on why this is. Regardless of the reasons, lack of interest in law enforcement as a profession is a national trend. We are starting this program to expose young people to law enforcement at an early age,” Shelide said.

“We think this is a great way to expose young people to the truth about law enforcement: that we are in an extremely noble and rewarding profession that is saturated with great people. We expect this program to become one of the jewels of our agency. I have asked Sgt. Brandon Dowty to lead the program with oversight by Deputy Chief Mark Coil. Both men bring a high level of commitment and intelligence to the program,” said Shelide.

Dowty said that because this program has a hands-on format, police plan to allow 24 children to participate. Due to the program’s competitive nature and small class size, they are looking for highly motivated children who show genuine interest in law enforcement.

He also said they are able to have the program without using any taxpayer money.

“We are establishing private funding to ensure the program is fully funded with non-taxpayer dollars. The majority of our equipment being used is being repurposed or expired, which significantly reduces cost,” said Dowty.

Lunch will not be provided during the program.

Children who are interested must submit application forms with a letter of recommendation from a teacher to the Police Department or email Dowty. Forms can be picked up at the Police Department and are due by May 31.

For more information on the program, call (586) 731-2121, ext. 325, or email bdowty@shelbytwp.org.

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