Teens learn about law enforcement careers

June 19, 2012

From greenbaypressgazette.com: “Teens, Green Bay police get chance to connect” – Dylan Mancoske’s close friend died in a drunken-driving crash earlier this year.

While coping with the tragedy, the 16-year-old Denmark High School student decided he wanted to one day become a patrol officer.

“After that incident, it really got me to thinking how I could help somehow,” he said of the death of Luke Watzka, also 16, who registered a 0.249 percent blood-alcohol content after the minivan he was driving overturned March 24 on Rosecrans Road in New Denmark.

“I don’t want that to happen to other teenagers,” Mancoske said.

He was one of 26 teens who recently took part in a weeklong series of activities as part of the Green Bay Police Department’s 12th annual teen police academy, which gives participants an insider’s look at several law enforcement careers to dispel myths and builds relationships with young people.

Previously, the program only accepted teens from Green Bay high schools, but this year partnered with several agencies to recruit teens interested in policing across Brown County.

“For high school kids who are thinking about going into a career in law enforcement, we’re trying to give them a little taste of what that would be like,” Green Bay police crime prevention officer Dave Schmitz said. “We want to make that connection with teens so they feel comfortable connecting to law enforcement.”

School resource officers informed many students about the academy, which required all participants be in good academic standing.

Students were treated to presentations from Green Bay SWAT team and K-9 officers, probation agents and others. Participants also completed an obstacle course and went to a gun range. This year’s program was bolstered by a $1,825 grant from the Crime Prevention Foundation of Brown County, which supports initiatives focused on teens and other at-risk groups.

“The academy works to open doors for them,” Schmitz added.

Law enforcement jobs

Nationwide, police and detective jobs are projected to grow by 7 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is slower than average for all jobs, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Agencies are increasingly looking for bilingual applicants and those with a bachelor’s degree or military experience.

Following those projections, more people are graduating with law enforcement degrees at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay.

The number of graduates with two-year law enforcement degrees increased from 62 in 2009 to 100 in 2011, a 61 percent jump. During that span, more graduates also completed a two-year degree program to work at jails or prisons, and the college’s 13-week law enforcement academy.

Chris Madson, public safety training manager at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, said a growing number of officers retiring statewide has opened up opportunities in law enforcement. Graduates learn about firearms, defensive tactics, traffic accident investigations and the law.

“The need is out there. Every day there is new technology and new challenges and you have to step in and address those right away before you fall behind,” he said.

Students who pass the law enforcement academy become certified to become an officer in the state. About half of those students say that they have wanted to be officers since childhood, Madson said.

A good fit?

Teenagers considering policing careers should have no criminal record. Even too many traffic violations can hurt an applicant’s chances of being hired, he said.

“The little things that they don’t think of how it will affect them five years down the line does affect them.”

Andy Lundin, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources conservation warden, spoke to the teen academy and said some people do not know wardens have arresting powers.

“People may not understand that conservation wardens get involved in a lot more than hunting and fishing,” he said, noting cases that involve weapons, drugs or alcohol. “The goal is to give these kids a clear understanding of law enforcement and all the different areas and fields.”

Teens who participate in the program also received a tour of the maximum-security Green Bay Correctional Institution in Allouez, which included a walk through the prison cafeteria.

Kaitlin Nimmer, 17, who is going to be a senior at Green Bay Preble High School, said she expected the prison would be more raucous.

“I thought people would be shouting,” she said, but found there wasn’t much noise. Kaitlin, one of five girls in the program, said she was impressed by the K-9 presentation, which revealed how a dog could be trained to detect drugs.

“It’s really interesting to see how smart a dog can be,” she said. “The program gives you an actual idea of what law enforcement is compared to TV shows.”

Mancoske, one of the participants in Green Bay’s teen police academy, said he plans to study law enforcement in college after graduating high school.

“The academy just made me want to be a cop even more,” he said.

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