The Anniston Police Department’s Junior Police Academy began Monday at the Northeast Alabama Law Enforce-ment Academy at McClellan. Eight students from area high schools are receiving an abbreviated instructional course on what it’s like to train to be a police officer.
“What I hope is we can curve their interest towards law enforcement,” said Sgt. Curtis McCants, who is in charge of the week-long program. “And hopefully we can get them to help out their community.”
The city’s police could use some help in the recruiting department, according to Lt. Allen George, who said the number of people joining the ranks of law enforcement has dwindled dramatically in recent years.
“When I took the civil service exam 19 years ago, there were over 200 people,” George said. “When I gave out the exam in March, there were 41.”
George said he believes the decline in numbers is a generational thing. Police work is a calling, as he described it, that fewer and fewer young people take up.
But that wasn’t the case Monday for the small group of eight Calhoun County high school students in attendance at the Junior Police Academy. During an afternoon break from learning how to administer CPR, Officer Derrick Kirby asked each student why they enrolled at the academy.
“I always wanted to be a police officer,” was the unanimous response.
They were also unanimous in their love for television cop shows, from “CSI” to “Criminal Minds,” but McCants, Kirby and Officer Emily Randles were quick to dismiss the notion that their job was wall-to-wall action.
“It isn’t about getting in fights or wrestling with someone,” McCants said. “It’s about communicating with people. You can handcuff someone without barely touching them if you can communicate with them.”
For Ashley Drury, a Pleasant Valley High School senior who said she wants to be a crime scene investigator, her biggest concern was just that –- knowing how to communicate with people and approach the job with as little intimidation as possible.
She found out it was something trained officers still struggle with all the time.
“Don’t let anyone ever tell you they’re not scared,” Kirby said in response to Drury’s question. “I get scared out of my mind every day, but I do it; that’s my job.”
Kirby said he got the same advice from an officer when he went through the Junior Police Academy as an Alexandria High School student in 2005.
“Every day you’re going to be nervous,” he said. “If you’re not nervous, you’re not human.”
The students Monday went through basic instruction on CPR and the Heimlich maneuver from Anniston EMS responder Caleb Dulaney. Activities scheduled for the rest of the week include going on ride-alongs with officers, practice making traffic stops and clearing buildings, tours of jail facilities in the county and a course on how to fill out paperwork.
But the real fun will come at the end of the week.
“Friday, that’s what I’m excited about,” said Brandon Gaddy, a senior at Alexandria High School. “That’s the good day, we’ll get to go to the shooting range.”
But before they get there, the students will take on the obstacle course this morning to see if they can fulfill the physical requirements of being a police officer.
“Not everything we do this week will be exciting,” Kirby told the students. “But keep an open mind. You might end up liking some stuff you wouldn’t think you would.”
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.