Royal blue T-shirts with white letters made up the uniforms of Calhoun County students involved in the fourth annual Junior Law Enforcement Academy week, offered by the Anniston Police Department and Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office. The week-long program encompasses aspects of police work including learning how to defuse domestic violence situations and clear buildings, said Anniston police training officer Emily Randles.
The program began with first aid and CPR training on Monday and will end with the students learning how to fire weapons — with lots of supervision, of course — on Friday, Randles said.
Alyce Sparrowhawk, 17, a senior from Jacksonville High School, said she was both nervous and excited because was touring the jail for the first time.
“I don’t know how the inmates will react,” she said prior to the tour.
Eric Brown, a junior at Weaver High School, said he has family in law enforcement. Wednesday’s tour of the jail wasn’t his first.
“You always see in movies how jails are so eerie. You would think they’re nothing like that, it’s just for show, but when you go in it’s just like the movies,” he said.
Brown and Sparrowhawk said they were both first-time participants in the academy and they’d both been enjoying the experience.
For Sparrowhawk, being able to go through the same thing police officers go through every day is what makes the academy special.
“Going through crime scene investigations and sketches makes you feel like you’re actually out there on the job,” she said.
“You get a deeper look instead of a public view,” Brown said, adding that his favorite day of the program was Tuesday when they learned about clearing a building.
“You get to train like real officers do,” he said.
The number of participants has gone up by three students since last year, Randles said. She said she hopes this year’s group will tell other students and their friends about their experiences and encourage them to participate in upcoming years.
Anniston police Sgt. Curtis McCants has been with the program for two years. McCants said he was happy with the turnout of students, too, but said the Police Department should consider holding the academy a little closer to the end of the school year so more students will have a better chance to participate.
Curtis said 20 students were approved for the academy but only 15 were able to participate because of the timing.
“Most of kids who couldn’t come was because of other obligations,” he said.
Regardless of their dream profession, Randles said she believes the program is beneficial for any student.
“If they want to get into law enforcement they know what they’re getting into and even if they don’t they’ll understand what we do and what we deal with and that’s important,” she said.
Staff writer Madasyn Czebiniak: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @MCzebiniak_Star.