Kendra Miranda was ready to step inside a crime scene simulation at the Center for Domestic Preparedness on Wednesday.
But as she walked through the life-like set of a subway explosion, stepping lightly over debris and taking notes in her yellow notepad, she started to feel light-headed.
“When I walked into the crime scene and I saw all the blood and what could happen or be at a crime scene, it kind of freaked me out a little bit,” said Miranda, who will be a senior at Weaver High School this fall. “You see it on TV and think it’s no big deal, but when you see it in person it’s like, ‘Oh my goodness, I can’t believe this happened.”
Miranda and 15 other high school students interested in careers in law enforcement visited the CDP as part of the Anniston Junior Law Enforcement Academy, which began Monday. The weeklong academy held by Anniston police and the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office aims to give students a better understanding of what police officers do.
“We’ve covered traffic stops, death investigations, domestic violence, building clearing and today at the CDP they’ll do crime scene sketches, first aid and active-shooter training, as well,” Deputy Ryan Mahieu said. “It gives them a little bit more hands-on experience of what being a police officer is like. It’s not all what you see on TV. There is a lot more that goes along with it.”
Mahieu said the students enrolled in the program were required to fill out an application and be recommended by a law enforcement officer, which is often their school’s resource officer, and their principal.
“They have to have pretty good grades and can’t have been in trouble in school,” he said.
Mahieu said the information the students will take away from the academy will help them decide whether a career in law enforcement is right for them, and if in the end they decide it isn’t, everything they learn can still be useful.
Rick Searcy, an instructor at the CDP, said the students have already learned so much.
“We train them to take care of other people,” he said. “I want them to know about the threats that are out there. Today, we are talking about active shooters and these are high school students so they really need to know about that. Knowing what they now know, they can go back and tell some of their classmates what to do.”
Searcy said the three most important points the students should remember in an active shooter situation are to either run, hide or fight.
Dakota King, a rising senior at Wellborn High School, said the information would be useful to anyone in an active shooter situation.
“They taught us how to tell who an active shooter is because it could be anybody,” he said. “They aren’t picking out anybody that they want to shoot. It’s just anybody and everybody.”
Lt. Curtis McCants said he has been involved with three of the five years the Police Department has held the junior academy, and they have recently had two students who went through the program apply to be officers.
McCants said he likes seeing the friendships that are formed during the program, and knowing that they are helping young people learn about a career in law enforcement.
“You’re talking about kids from over seven or eight different high schools that probably would have never met each other if it wasn’t for this program,” he said. “They learn some leadership skills and they are understanding more about what police work is actually about. As kids, they think that it’s all about chasing people and kicking in doors, but they learn there is an emphasis on communicating with people.”
As for Miranda, the biggest thing she said she will leave the program with is the knowledge of how to protect herself, and despite her experience in the crime scene simulation earlier that morning, she still wants to go into law enforcement. Armed with the instruction and experience from the junior academy, Miranda will be ready next time.
“I’ve learned the correct way to hold a gun, how to correctly do a traffic stop and I’ve learned about the effects of drugs,” she said. “I’ve learn to sweep a room and to use a fire extinguisher. I’ve learned a lot.”