SIDNEY — A new program from the Sidney Police Department gave 22 local teens the opportunity to learn first hand from law enforcement officers about daily police life.
From May 30 to June 1, the participants spent nine hours a day learning about police life and procedure in an informal academy. They learned about the hierarchy of the police force, experienced a use of force simulator, worked through mock crime scenes, saw a demo by the K-9 operations and toured the jail and the court before taking part in a graduation ceremony friends and family could attend.
“I’m unbelievably pleased with how it went,” Sgt. Jeremy Lorenzo, the program’s director, said. “This was the first time this program has been held, so we were nervous. We had a lot of plans and wanted it to flow smoothly so the kids could get something out of it.”
Lunch was provided each day and the participants received three T-shirts, which was funded through a grant by the Community Foundation. Additionally, the YMCA gave all kids who graduated the academy a free summer membership from June to August. Other supplies needed for the course were funded by the City of Sidney.
The class opened a dialogue between the officers and teenagers and helped garner trust.
“Without Sgt. (Jeremy) Lorenzo, this program would have never happened,” Sidney Police Chief William Balling said. “When he approached me with this idea, he said he would run with it. I don’t think he thought I would say to run with it.”
Over the course of the program and especially during the mock crime scene, the youths gained confidence in their abilities and learned to ask questions and have open communication with other members of their team, especially their superiors. During the debriefing, the participants explained how they felt during the mission.
Annie Stemen, a rising senior at Fairlawn high school, had the role of a first responder to a coffee shop stabbing.
“I was very nervous,” Annie Stemen said. “I have no medical training!”
However, her nerves did not dampen her praise for the course. “It’s a really great opportunity for people who want to be better leaders,” she said. “I really loved it.”
The class ended with the teens receiving framed certificates and shaking hands with Balling and Mayor Mike Barhorst.
“If you set your mind to something and you truly want it, then you can make it happen,” Lorenzo told the teens during graduation. “Don’t ever let anyone tell you ‘you aren’t good enough’ — not ever.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4825.