KOKOMO, Ind. — Two dozen area middle school students learned about law enforcement careers at the Kokomo Police Department’s first ever junior police academy, on the Indiana University Kokomo campus.
IU Kokomo Police Chief Jerry Williams and Sergeant Brian Hunt participated daily, assisting as students drove golf carts through an emergency operations course, processed a simulated crime scene, and learned what is involved in law enforcement careers.
For Williams, the most important part of the week was creating positive relationships between the children and the officers.
“We need to build bridges, to close the gap between police officers and young people,” he said. “We want kids to feel safe contacting police officers if they need help, or even just coming up to talk to us. If they have a problem or a question, we want them to be comfortable.”
Those relationships help build a safer community, he said.
“Crime is not a police problem, it’s a people problem,” Williams said. “There will only be as much crime as people allow in their communities before they start getting involved.”
Williams educated students on how they could begin their law enforcement careers at IU Kokomo, with its criminal justice major and campus police cadet program. The cadet program is open to juniors and seniors who serve as police officers on campus and participate in the Indiana University Police Academy in Bloomington.
After the academy, the cadets may serve as officers on campus until graduation. They are sought-after candidates for law enforcement positions, Williams said.
“They graduate with the police academy behind them, two years of job experience, and an IU degree,” he said. “Our officers who have graduated have had great success in finding law enforcement jobs.”
Students spent the week investigating a crime that involved a car crash and a bank robbery, with more details coming to light each day. They also saw inside a SWAT truck, met the crew of a Samaritan helicopter that landed on campus, and learned the dangers of texting and driving, or drinking and driving, by driving golf carts while wearing vision-impairing goggles.
Williams said that is a good lesson for all students to learn, not just those planning careers in law enforcement, as they start to drive in the next few years.
“We were trying to show them there is a lot of responsibility that comes with driving,” he said. “Everything you do that adds to the multitasking of driving greatly increases the risk of being involved in an accident. I think it drove the point home pretty well. I don’t think any of them made it through the course without driving over barriers.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.