Lethbridge Police Services gave local students an up-close look at what it is like to be a police officer at its sixth annual youth police academy. On June 7, about 16 high school students who expressed interest in a career in law enforcement visited the LPS headquarters.
The itinerary included a tour of the station and time with members of the Criminal Investigation Section and Traffic Response Unit. Students also saw demonstrations by the Ident Unit, K9 Unit, Tactical Team, Explosive Disposal Unit and simulated firearms training.
Constable Chris Andrade is part of the LPS Youth Engagement Unit — he said it is important in his role to build relationships with students
“We love it, we want to have as much community interest as we can get. It’s nice for us [because] we are always in the schools, in their community, so it’s nice that we can bring the kids into our community as well too and share that,” he said.
Youth engagement officers are assigned a portfolio of schools and community partners and often work with high risk youth, he said. “Whenever we are dealing with youth, we always have to overcome their [perceptions] of law enforcement, especially when we go into schools and it’s truly just expressing to them that, ‘hey, we are not here for bad incidents, we are not here to be a negative influence or enforce rules inside of the school. We are here to build relationships, get tot know the kids, try to be a mentor.’”
Andrade said it is hard to describe to students what a career in policing looks like when they express interest in it. This program allows him and other officers to show the many career paths available within law enforcement and give them a better understanding of the reality of the job.
“We get exposed to a lot of the fun side of things on TV so it’s really a realistic side of what we do and why we do it and it’s truly for community involvement, working with community partners,” he said.
Tayshaun Small Eyes, a grade 11 student, attended and said he wants to pursue policing as a career.
“I have always wanted to be a police officer since I was young,” he said. “I wanted to come here just to learn some of the ins and outs of it.” He said there is a lot more paperwork to the job than he was expecting, but he is still excited about policing. His favorite part of the day was trying on tactical armour and he said he was very excited to see the K9 unit.
He was inspired to pursue law enforcement by his grandmother. “My grandmother was very community driven and she had problems with the police on the Blood Tribe,” he said.“ She kinda said, help change and just help everything.” He added he had role models who were officers and part of his excitement came from western movies with sheriffs.