During the Shelby Township Youth Law Enforcement Academy, children investigate a car that was involved in a mock robbery to learn how to collect evidence at a scene.

During the Shelby Township Youth Law Enforcement Academy, children investigate a car that was involved in a mock robbery to learn how to collect evidence at a scene.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Shelby youths learn police skills during Youth Law Enforcement Academy

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published July 23, 2019


SHELBY TOWNSHIP — The Shelby Township Police Department is hosting its first-ever Shelby Youth Law Enforcement Academy for school-aged children, and it was hard to tell who was having more fun.

The program is taking place on the township municipal grounds Mondays through Fridays, July 15-26.

The program teaches students teamwork, leadership, communication skills, and gives them an introduction to the skills and equipment used by first responders on a daily basis.

This program was part of Police Chief Robert Shelide’s vision to bring the community together and show children what police officers do in their daily jobs. Sgt. Brandon Dowty was given the opportunity to make it happen.

“This was something that he truly wanted to come into fruition, and when he brought it to me, I was nervous but also excited for the challenge. He told me his vision and gave me the resources to fulfill it,” Dowty said.

“About a year ago, I worked with a couple other departments that had a program going, and one department wanted to make some major tweaks to it because they were having some challenges. Another one had one, and they were like, ‘Yeah, we can make it better.’ But I believe they were having some funding issues, so we all sat down and talked about the pros and cons of their programs, and I learned a lot from them and worked off that.”

During the academy, students work toward solving a mock crime and train in a structure that is similar to a real police academy that Shelby Township police officers go through. Training includes physical training, hands-on projects and classroom presentations.

“It’s definitely a challenge for us, because these kids are brilliant. We’re pretty confident we put something together, and so far the parents have been emailing me with positive feedback,” said Dowty.

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

After the academy, the children will be certified in CPR and first aid.

A total of 28 children were able to participate in the program with extra donated funding, and they were split into groups of seven. Each child had a role in the group: the officer in charge, the interviewer, the photographer, the evidence logger, the fingerprinter, the shoe-caster and the DNA collector.

The children got to do shoe castings July 17, and they conducted four different crime scene investigations July 18.

There were four stations that were set up like actual crime scenes, where the children worked together by completing their roles.

The four stations involved collecting a bottle that the suspect dropped, dusting and swabbing the bottle for evidence, casting footprints, and investigating evidence from a mock stolen vehicle.

The mock crime for the children to figure out was a bank robbery. The instructors set up fake evidence for the children to investigate and come up with a solution. In the crime, the robber threw a bottle before robbing the bank; then ran out the back of the building, leaving footprints; then ran past a parked car, hurting their elbow. The robber then stole a vehicle, which got stuck, and then fled, leaving behind a mask and blood — ketchup — on the vehicle.

Nichole Barents, of Shelby Township, said her favorite activity was the fingerprint dusting.

“It was like magnetic powder, so you can check with that; it was super cool,” she said.

“It’s really fun. The first day, I was kind of really nervous, but after these couple of days have gone by, it had gotten a lot more fun, and anytime we’re not focused and talking, we have to do 10 pushups. They do it to focus us,” said Barents.

She also said she enjoyed seeing the K-9s when they were doing training.

Raymond Abi-Younes, of Shelby Township, said his favorite part was the team-building activity.

“Someone wore a blindfold and someone had to guide them through an obstacle course, or where Sgt. Dowty was going, they had to follow him,” he said.

“It demonstrated how you’re going to need a lot of teamwork and have to trust your teammates too,” he said.

“I think the academy is amazing and if they have it again, I will do it again next year,” he said.

Shelide said the department is trying to teach young children about law enforcement and the possibility of getting a job in that field.

“We came up with a great idea here to interact with our youth ... (and) teach them about law enforcement. I tasked Sgt. Brandon Dowty, an extremely talented young man, with this project, and he took off running with it. I got to give him all the credit, for it is his baby. He has these kids — every single minute of their day is accounted for. But he’s not running a boot camp here; he’s teaching them and from what I can see, the learning is infectious, and I couldn’t be more proud our staff and his team for doing this,” Shelide said.

He said there’s been a lot of negativity with police since 2009, and Shelby Township residents have become more supportive.

The department hopes to be able to have the program again next year.

This program was free for the children, and the department hopes that the program helps to build a stronger community, teaches children valuable skills and maybe leads to some future officers.

During the program, the children chose the motto “Here to serve.”

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