The Wilmington Police Department is setting some time aside to work with young people, particularly those interested in law enforcement.
The goal is to address policing from a different view. It’s called Wilmington’s Youth Police Academy. According to one police officer it’s a program that area teens won’t want to miss.
“Some people think that we are machines because we have to go from complaint to complaint, but at the end of the day we take this uniform off. We are human,” Corporal Anthony Harris who helps runs the program said.
Harris, a 26 year police veteran, now spends much of his time working with young people at Howard High School of Technology in Wilmington.
“The kids have the opportunity to see a real police officer with emotions and how we feel about different situations that we encounter every day,” Harris said.
This is Harris’ second year leading the Youth Police Academy. Another goal of the program is to prevent incidents like the deadly school fight that led to the death of Amy Joyner-Francis. Three students now face charges related to her death. The incident, however, serves as an example of why the academy is necessary.
“The reason it’s important to have is because sometimes behavior issues carry over into adulthood,” Harris added.
The Wilmington police decided to create the academy and open it to students throughout New Castle County. Participants get up close and personal with officers learning everything from how criminal investigations are conducted to team building exercises.
“You have to know your friends, you have to know the background of your friends because ultimately your life can change as a result of your friend selection,” Harris said.
Dedicated to his job and developing healthy relationships with young people, Harris also implemented a special program called Silence Breeds Violence.
“We don’t own your neighborhoods, we don’t manage your neighborhoods we’re a tool to you so when you call us you’ll how you deal with us, and how you talk to the police about the crime that’s creeping in your neighborhood helps us resolve and keep the element out of your community,” Harris said.
According to Harris, last year’s academy was success, attracting slightly over two dozen students.
“I’ll tell you what the mentality of our kids and their thought process towards police officers once they finished the academy was just phenomenal. They were very willing to get involved with police, police activities, they are excited about becoming a part of ‘ride-alongs’. You name it the kids were more than willing to get involved,” Harris said.
Program leaders also talk about ethics in policing, as well as bring in experts from various divisions, and create scenarios for students.
“The experience of a police officer is compared to no other profession in this world,” Harris said.
The two week Youth Police Academy begins June 20th. Classes will be held daily for about five hours. It’s offered to students ages 12 to 17 years old.
Anyone interested can pick up an application at the police station. The deadline is fast approaching for applications which must be turned in on or before May 27th.