Most parents would not be pleased to learn their children spent a few days down at the police station.
That's not the case for the parents of 16 young adults who participated in the annual Teen Academy put on by the Oro Valley Police Department last week.
Over the course of the three-day camp, young people between the ages of 13 and 17 were exposed to what goes on within the OVPD. They got a hands-on look at everything, from regular patrolling to Special Weapons and Tactics team demonstrations. They looked at the K-9 division, and studied crime scene management.
Officer Zach Pierce, a 12-year OVPD veteran who is a motorcycle policeman and serves on the SWAT team, traveled with students to the Pima Pistol Club, where they saw officers use weapons.
"A lot of kids play video games like Call of Duty and SOCOM; a bunch of first-person shooters," said Pierce. "They get to see what it looks like, feels like and sounds like."
The department, using expired body armor vests, showed the students how the vests stop smaller rounds such as 9mm or .40-caliber pistol round, and explained how the bullets change shape in the air and when they hit the vest.
Following the demonstration, youngsters rode in the back of the SWAT vehicle to the police station.
Later, officers explained the use of a Taser electrical current stun gun, and talked about communications. Students ended the day with the K-9 division.
"They had one of the officers put on the arm protector, and then they had the dog attack him just to show us how strong his bite was," said Chelsea Quinn, 17. She said it really stuck in her mind to see the dog's reaction and its strength.
During classes and demonstrations, students had a lot of their what-if scenario questions answered. They sat on Pierce's motorcycle, sat in the seat of a patrol car, and tried on Fatal Vision Goggles that impair one's vision. During the CSI portion of the class, students divided into groups and were asked to analyze a crime scene, documenting evidence, taking fingerprints, requesting lab results and establishing a viable suspect.
Officer Shawn Benjamin helped put together and run the academy.
"The officers make it very entertaining," said Benjamin. "We really tried to incorporate a lot of hands-on activities."
OVPD wants the students to get "a better knowledge of what we do in law enforcement," said Benjamin, and to realize "all the different jobs that the police department is devised of.
"If they are interested in law enforcement, then it gives them options," Benjamin said. "It gives them different avenues that they can go down to try to locate or try and get experience before they go into an actual academy."
Anyone over the age of 18 who would like to try something similar can participate in an OVPD Citizens Academy. The next one meets weekly from Sept. 1 through Nov. 17. Contact Officer Jodi Brackett at 229-2900 for more information.