Monday July 2, 2007
ROCK ISLAND -- The kids sat in Frances Willard Elementary School's library Thursday morning, waiting for their teacher.
She arrived about 9:10 a.m., dressed in all black, including a black face mask.
"Sorry I'm late," Rock Island Police Officer Dytanya Robinson told the Junior Police Academy class. "I've already been working two raids ... I've been sweating in this hot suit since 6 a.m."
The students were wide-eyed and curious. They wanted to know more about her job with the tactical unit -- and her uniform.
It's the first year for the academy, designed to teach pre-teens about the different aspects of police work. They academy just wrapped up the last of four, three-day sessions.
Rock Island police Chief John Wright was inspired by Springfield's Junior Police Academy program, and wanted to try one here, Officer Robinson said.
Ten to 13 students committed to each session. There was no cost to students, since DARE funding was used to pay for it.
Classes were held at Frances Willard, Thomas Jefferson and Audubon elementary schools and the Martin Luther King Jr. Center.
School Resource Officer Jim Pauley and Officer Robinson led the sessions. Through guest speakers -- other officers -- students were exposed to crime scene investigation, detecting speeders, bike patrolling and emergency response.
Learning took place both inside and outside the classroom. After spending part of the two-hour sessions in the classroom, students headed out to participate in demonstrations.
"I thought we were just going to be talking about the stuff they do every day," said 11-year-old Ashley Ayala, adding that the hands-on aspect of the program made it more exciting.
Thursday, students learned about SWAT teams and then participated in a mock building entry. Earlier in the week, they tested radar guns along the street.
Officers said they were careful to not just explain what police do, but why they do it. Some children believe police are just out to hassle people, Officer Robinson said, and she hopes the program changed their perceptions.
Ashlee Moore, 11, said the program helped her understand "why they give people tickets and stuff."
The officers also hoped the program would spark interest in some participants in becoming police officers.It did for 10-year-old Carmentae Henry. "I'd just like to be a police officer ... because it helps people and it’s the best thing to do."