Imagine you’re a police officer face-to-face with a suspect reported to be armed and his hands are behind his back. How would you proceed?
This was one of many scenarios posed by the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office at its first annual Youth Citizen’s Academy for teens at least age 15. The program, developed to recruit young ambassadors for the sheriff’s office, exposed 18 students to the daily challenges that officers face.
Dasia Sullivan, 16, shared her excitement at the start of the one-week course that ended Friday.
“I’m very interested in law enforcement and the way it works,” the Academy of Richmond County student said.
The teens who enrolled in the course got to meet Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree and staff, and toured the administrative facility at 400 Walton Way.
Capt. Wendy George said the program’s goal is two-fold —to bridge a gap between the youth and law enforcement and to give teens the opportunity to learn about the sheriff’s office.
“We’re trying to create a positive relationship between the youth of our community and the law enforcement profession,” she said. “As recent events have evolved unfortunately law enforcement have received a negative perception … and we want to try to change that perception.”
Before the start of the course Skylon Walters, a 15-year-old Technical Career Magnet School student, said he was open to learning more about the job of law enforcement officers.
“I just want to see the different side instead of the negative side,” he said. “(I want to) see the positive side and actually have my own perspective of law enforcement.”
After taking part in SWAT exercises, and learning more about the sheriff’s office’s gang task force, the students Thursday had a motor unit demonstration and a drunken driving simulator course.
Making their way through the narrow winding course, each student was given a trial run before wearing special goggles designed to mimic the effect alcohol has on an average adult.
“They are engineered to be able to take those certain light stimulus that come in and they knock our equilibrium around to the point to where it kind of disorients,” Deputy Jason Payne said about the special goggles.
They also sat behind the wheel of a patrol car to learn how it is controlled.
“There’s just so much in a police car that there’s no longer much room for a passenger,” Lt. Allan Rollins said after joining the teens at the Richmond County driving course Thursday.
The sheriff’s office held a graduation ceremony Friday for the students at its training course on Greenland Road. The department is accepting applications for its Citizens Academy . Augusta residents 18 years and up interested in applying can contact the sheriff’s office at (706) 821-1000.