What you need to know: SPD Safety Town, Teen Academy programs


SIDNEY — The Sidney Police Department’s annual Safety Town and Community Teen Law Enforcement Workshop, or Teen Academy, return this June. The two programs have been around for years, according to Community Resource Officer Bryce Stewart the Safety Town program has been held every year for over 20 years and the Teen Academy has been held annually for around 10 years.

“It’s just invaluable, the information that we’re able to give them and show them safety wise,” said Stewart. “Teen Academy helps teens understand what police officers do; they get to meet police officers, interact with police officers, go on a ride along with police officers. Whereas during Safety Town, they get to meet everyone.”

Both programs, while aimed towards different age groups, are hosted to help educate the community in different ways. Safety Town is for children in preschool and Kindergarten to learn about various aspects of safety to help them navigate the world they are slowly entering as they begin school. The Teen Academy program is for high school students, grades nine through 12, to help foster a relationship between teenagers and the officers that serve and protect their community as well as introduce the teens to the law enforcement field.

Safety Town is meant to help preschool and Kindergarten age children learn different aspects of public safety. Along with the Sidney Police Department, the Fire Department, Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, Dog Warden and Sidney City Schools all work together to educate the kids on different safety aspects.

During Safety Town, SPD educates the kids on gun safety, playground safety, crosswalk safety, how to call 911 and the officers do an introduction to ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training to help prepare them should the worst happen when they begin attending school. Safety Town Officers also teach the children about strangers and that even people their parents know and police officers are still strangers. Stewart also suggests to parents to teach their children a password or safe word that anyone coming to pick them up in the place of mom or dad should know.

SPD partnered with Dog Warden Chastity Crowder to teach the Safety Town kids how to stay safe around dogs, especially strange dogs. Ward will bring a dog from the shelter to help her demonstrate how to properly greet a dog, what to do if a strange dog approaches them and best practices and reactions to use around animals, specifically animals they do not know the personality of. Along with learning dog safety, the K-9 unit typically joins the Safety Town officers to show the kids the difference between a pet and a working dog. This year, with the recent retirement of the SPD’s K-9, Kilo, the department is partnering with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office for this portion.

The kids also take a trip to the Fire Department to learn from the firefighters about fire safety and tour the station. Sidney City Schools also provides a bus and bus driver to help teach the kids bus safety and how to act on a school bus, which benefits both kids and the schools as it prepares the students for what to expect when they start school whether they ride the bus daily or only for field trips.

“I hope they can gain the confidence that when they’re at home or whether they’re at school or whether they’re outside playing, that they have confidence in knowing that not only are they safe, but they’re safe because they learned how to be safe and they learned that if something seems dangerous to not be near it,” said Stewart. “When you see that danger that you can recognize that danger and have confidence in telling an adult.”

In the Teen Academy, participants get to learn to inner workings of the police department and the difference between what they might see on TV and the reality of what officers see and do on a daily basis.

During the academy, teens will learn specifics about different departments within the SPD, including; the Tactical Response Team, Cyber Crimes department, patrol units, detectives, narcotics department and the responsibilities of Stewart as the Community Resource Officer.

More involved and hands-on activities done at the Teen Academy include using the SPD’s use of force simulator that officers use for training, learning the difference between a “good click and a bad click” from the Cyber Crimes Unit and investigating an old, solved, homicide case to learn about the different processes involved in investigations.

Outside of the SPD, teens in the Teen Academy tour the Shelby County Jail with the Sheriff’s Office and will have the opportunity to speak with county judges and learn about the various courts.

“At the Teen Academy, it’s not all scary if you’re a driver and you get pulled over, (they learn) what’s going on, what’s happening and different aspects of police work, how we investigate things and how, in general, we’re human beings and we work for the people and try to make our community safe,” said Stewart. “Sometimes kids talk and they hear things and those things aren’t always true. That’s when they can ask those questions in a good, wholesome environment to learn from police officers, from the officers’ side and realize that we’re there for them to help them when they’re having their worst day.”

This year’s Safety Town is on June 19-22 with two sessions each day, the first from 9 a.m. to noon and the second from 4 to 7 p.m. The program is free, but limited to 20 kids per session. There are about 5-10 spots left per session. Registration for Safety Town is closing next week; to register your child, contact Community Stewart at 937-498-8722.

Registration for the Teen Academy is closed, but if interested contact Stewart for other potential opportunities outside of the academy.

The Sidney Daily News conducts a periodic interview to update readers with news from the Sidney Police Department, 234 W. Court St., Sidney.

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