Both the Jeffco Sheriff's Office and Golden Police Department hosted youth academies June 6-10, where local teens learned about everything from K-9 units and crime scene investigations to jail operations and DUI enforcement.
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Over the past week, students aged 14-18 learned how the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office operates during its annual Youth Academy.
Deputy Dave Bruening, the student resource officer at Dakota Ridge High School, has been directing the camp for eight years. He understands the importance of making connections with students.
“We’ve got to engage with the kids — the kids need us more than ever,” he said.
The camp, which went from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. June 6-10, gave participants an insight into many aspects of law enforcement. The group experienced K-9 and SWAT demonstrations, jail operations, DUI simulations and crime scene investigations, as well as other patrol procedures.
Each participant got a badge that identified them and gave them access around the buildings, serving as both a souvenir and a way to keep them safe during camp.
Jaden Banister just graduated from Chatfield High School. This fall, she’s attending college to study criminology and forensic psychology. Banister hopes to someday be a criminal profiler.
Banister came to the camp to make connections and learn more about the profession. She enjoyed the in-depth investigations and learning the class experienced.
Denise Acosta also recently graduated from Columbine High School. She does not have plans to go into law enforcement, but wanted to get firsthand experience because her brother works in the system and she wants to pursue nursing when she goes to college this fall.
Acosta said seeing “how criminals experience that lifestyle” was the most impactful part of the camp for her.
On June 9, the students tried operating a Taser, under the supervision of the Sheriff's deputies. They fired at a target with the same Taser that would be used in the field, and they fired at an SRO officer wearing a protective suit with Velcro rounds that would not injure him.
The group also got to experience trying on “drunk goggles” to learn about the effects alcohol can have on coordination and balance. The students tried simple activities while wearing goggles that simulated different levels of impairment, such as catching a tennis ball, walking a straight line and hitting a ball with a bat.
Bruening said the camp aims to use the resources JCSO already has on campus, and all the instructors are either on duty or volunteering their time. He hopes an experience like this can teach the students the real parts of law enforcement.
“The camp allows the kids to come see us and see we’re human,” he said.
Graduating from GPD youth academy
While it was a jam-packed week, the Golden Police Department’s youth academy arguably saved the best for last.
On June 10, the seven participants visited Ti Training and used augmented reality, projectors, and lasers to practice various law enforcement scenarios. Afterward, they returned to the GPD headquarters at City Hall for a K-9 demonstration shortly before their graduation.
Golden Police Department has hosted the youth academy for decades, organizers estimated, although they weren’t sure exactly when it started. Anyone 13 to 17 can attend, although most participants are middle school students, Officer Derek Hall said.
Like their counterparts at the JCSO academy, the GPD participants said their week included learning to shoot a Taser, crime scene investigations, a look at the SWAT and bomb squads, a tour of the JeffCom 911 dispatch center, speeding enforcement, and wearing the goggles that simulate impairment.
Trenton Jowsey said his favorite part of the week was going to the Golden Fire Department, where the participants started and then extinguished a grease fire. He described the experience as making a giant fireball.
He also really liked watching officers fly GPD’s drone, describing how the operator put it in “sport mode” so it could reach up to 45 mph.
Trenton said he’s not particularly interested in law enforcement as a career, but signed up for the academy because he felt it’d be something fun and educational to do over the summer.
Conversely, Emma Weber’s interested in criminal investigations as a career. So, she really appreciated the opportunity to learn about crime scene investigations during the youth academy.
She and Brigitta Schultz said they’d recommend the GPD youth academy to their peers, as it’s great experience if someone want to pursue a law enforcement career. And, if not, it’s “very fun and entertaining,” as Weber described.
“You get to see what goes on behind the scenes, and put faces to the officers’ names,” Brigitta said.
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