Dallas needs hundreds more police officers and students in a Dallas Independent School District high school program Friday said they want to help.
Dallas high schools offer Collegiate Academies, where students can earn two-year associate degrees along with a high school diploma.
The Collegiate Academy at Carter High School in south Oak Cliff includes a focus on Criminal Justice.
Friday, Dallas Police Officer Farie Phelps taught a class on traffic stops, how officers should conduct them and how drivers should behave.
Officer Phelps said the program is a great head start for potential police cadets.
"They start to see us like regular people rather than just authorities," Phelps said. "I think it's a good thing when they're home grown because they understand the community that they're from."
Several students in the class said their goal is to become Dallas Police Officers.
"We can't have people just go around and kill whoever they want, or go steal whatever they want," said Carter Sophomore Angel Ramirez.
At a time when community activists attack the Dallas Police Department with accusations about brutality and a reformed Police Oversight Board is just getting started, Ramirez and other students in the class said they want to work to improve the Dallas Force for the people in their city.
"We'll live in a world where policing is OK for us to do. We'll be safe and we know they'll be safe with us," said Carter Sophomore Delianna Gomez. "All of us that have taken the criminal justice pathway have an open mind about policing and we keep an open mind because something's got to change from what's happening."
Carter Senior Calvin Anderson said he wants to do his part to protect and serve his city and the Carter program give high school students a head start.
"Getting people that live in the community, grew up in it, raised in it, to protect it and have an inside view on issues," Anderson said.
Carter Assistant Principal Tina Baker who oversees the program said it is good for the students and the city.
"It's an opportunity that you cannot put a price on. It's priceless. In being able to engage with the police department weekly, it's an opportunity to mentor and for the police department to tutor my students weekly through their college work," Baker said.
Around 100 students are enrolled in Carter's Collegiate Academy. Baker said 30 are Seniors and nearly 20 of them are interested in police careers.
Two years of college credit is one requirement for acceptance to the Dallas Police Academy so the Collegiate Academy program helps these potential recruits as well as the early exposure to law enforcement.
But the Dallas Police Department's Academy also requires recruits to be at least 19-and-a-half-years-old. High school graduates are typically 18. So, Baker said she is working with the Dallas Police Department on an internship program that would immediately employ High School graduates who intend to enter the police academy.
Dallas police recruiting and retention has improved this year. The Dallas Police Department currently has 3,077 officers. That's nearly 600 fewer than there were in 2011, but around 60 more than last year.