Police Program Puts High School Students In Officers’ Shoes

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Just about every police department will need new recruits to fill positions when vacancies come up.

The Westerville Police Department has created a youth academy to give high school students a taste of what their job requires.

“First and foremost, character, if you don't have that, I don't have a use for you as a police officer,” said Lt. Tracey Myers, Westerville PD.

Myers says Westerville students with an interest in law enforcement can go through a one-week course that exposes them to just about everything an officer encounters on the beat.

“They teach us how to handcuff, search, do tickets, stops... All that stuff,” said 17-year-old Roberto Rodriguez.

“We learn everything that a daily cop would do - from search and seizure, building searches, pat downs, crime scene investigations. All the normal topics an officer would do we do as well,” added 17-year-old Katrina Tieu.

Along the way, the teens find out how different real police work is from what they see on television. Out on the street, there are no re-takes.

“We teach them how to think on their feet, to be able to react when things aren't exactly what they should be. When you show up on a situation, everybody's looking for you to bring that chaos back into control,” explained Myers.

“It's nerve wracking to think you could lose your life any day, not go home to your friends, your family and your kids,” said Tieu.

Katarina says she 99 percent sure she wants to become a police officer and work in the detective bureau. Roberto hasn't made up his mind yet. But, he's leaning toward the secret service if he decides to pursue a career in law enforcement.

That's just fine by youth academy organizers. They just want to expose a couple dozen bright young minds every year to a livelihood they might not otherwise consider.

Applications are now being accepted for the next Westerville youth police academy that starts in July.