MUSCATINE, Iowa–Growing up, many kids have an interest in working as a police officer. Once they get to high school though, many young adults, while still curious about the profession, realize they do not fully know what officers do as part of their daily work. To expose students to some of the different aspects of police work and to help strengthen their leadership skills, the Muscatine Police Department held its second Junior Police Academy the week of June 6.
Inspired by the popularity of their first Junior Police Academy in 2019, the Muscatine Police Department provided application information to several nearby high schools to encourage students, especially juniors and seniors, to consider the program. This year, 20 students, selected based on their interest in the program, grades, and attendance records, participated.
A very hands on program, students spent four days at Muscatine Community College trying out different facets of police work. On Monday, students learned what officers do when they enforce traffic violations and conduct traffic stops. They also got to investigate a mock crime scene, trying out different evidence collection practices in the process.
The next day, students met with members of MSORT, which conducts special operations work in Muscatine and throughout the region. Students got to see some of the gear they use and find out how it works when responding to an active shooter or hostage situation. They also took a shot at the fitness testing the department uses to ensure officers can conduct all the tasks they need to. Members of the street crimes unit also talked to students, giving them insight into the day to day work officers do in the community.
On Wednesday, students took a field trip to the Muscatine County Courthouse, putting on a mock trial with Judge Reidel and discovering what each part of the defense and prosecution teams do during a court case. They then went across the street and had a tour of the Muscatine County Jail. Students also got to see a demonstration by K-9 Dino of how police dogs can assist their human handlers.
The final day of the program, students learned valuable first aid skills that can benefit first responders as well as private citizens. The Muscatine Fire Department graciously helped out with this training.
Reflecting on the time he spent with the students during the Junior Police Academy, Bryant took pride in giving participants a way to experience a career path they may pursue for themselves. “The big thing was hands on–they really liked the hands on portion,” he said.
Bryant also valued getting to help students develop their confidence and, “seeing their leadership and abilities come out.”
Lieutenant Jeff Jirak concurred with him. “What I enjoyed most was culturing the kids into a leadership style,” he said. “They can take any of those styles into a career after high school.”
The Muscatine Police Department plans to continue their Junior Police Academy as an annual event. They encourage high school students, especially juniors and seniors, to look for more information about it at their schools next school year.