By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Lessons in law enforcement
Academy helps shape perceptions
Law WEB 1
Madi O’Hara, left, and Haley Gardener discover a set of fingerprints on a sheriff’s office vehicle during the Junior Law Enforcement Academy at Otwell Middle School. - photo by Autumn Vetter

Josh Marshall cupped his hand on the window of a Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office vehicle to get a good view of the inside.

Then he dusted for his own writer’s impression and captured the print, just as a real crime scene investigator would.

The rising sixth-grader said he’s learned a lot about working in the sheriff’s office during the weeklong Junior Law Enforcement Academy.

“I like trying new stuff,” Marshall said. “And I like to see what my mom and dad do at work, because they’re cops.”

Sixty-six preteens gathered at Otwell Middle School for the free camp last week, during which they studied different aspects of law enforcement.

The emergency vehicle driving course (done in golf carts) and the shooting training (with pellet guns) often are some of the kids’ favorite activities, said Courtney Spriggs of the agency’s community relations unit.

They also spent the week learning about the SWAT team, crime scene investigation, defensive tactics, court proceedings and traffic stops.

The week wrapped up with a day of demonstrations with special equipment and units followed by a graduation.

Now in its third year, the program has generated a positive response from parents and graduates, Spriggs said.

“Parents of kids who came to the first one say they still talk about it,” she said. “The goal is to get an honest idea about what we do, and I guess that sticks with them.”

Jack Harkins said the camp grew his interest in entering the field when he’s an adult.

“In case we ever do become a cop, we already know what to expect,” Harkins said. “It’s not like in the Hollywood movies at all.”

He said the SWAT demonstration was one of his favorite parts.

Tyler Mathewson couldn’t decide what the best experiences of camp were for him because he wanted to learn everything.

Mathewson followed through a mock crime scene, taking notice of a broken window and some blood.

“If they find him somewhere else, he may have a cut on him,” he deduced.

The rising Little Mill Middle student said even better than learning, he had a lot of fun.

Spriggs said those relationships between the preteens and the deputies are a latent, beneficial effect of the camp.

“Instead of just seeing a black and white car or a big guy in a uniform, they know that we’re people,” she said. “We’ve played with them, we’ve taught them, we’ve changed their perceptions on who we are and what we do.”