Youths Learn About Law Enforcement During East Texas Camp

Jessica Mitchell has known she wants to go into law enforcement since she was about 10 years old. As a sergeant in the Longview Police Explorer program, she is on the right track.

The Longview News-Journal reports now 20 and getting ready to start studying criminal justice at LeTourneau University in the fall, Mitchell said she wants to get a bachelor's degree so she can move higher up the law enforcement ladder.

"You can become an officer with just a GED, but you can't become anything more than just a regular patrol officer," she said. "I would like to be a game warden or something else further in law enforcement."

Mitchell is one of the Longview Police Explorer sergeants who attended this week's Police Explorer Summer Camp. Students who are at least 14 and completed eighth grade up to age 21 can participate in the camp to learn about law enforcement and get hands-on training. The camp is open to people outside of the Explorer Program.

Police Explorers can assist officers at crime prevention events, parades, special event traffic management and during emergencies. Students also can enter national competitions, such as one at the University of Texas at Arlington in July.

Longview police Officer Josh Marrs said the camp, at Spring Hill Junior High School, helps recruit new Explorers to the program. The days start with physical training and include classroom and hands-on learning.

On Tuesday, students participated in a simulated traffic stop. Campers practiced how to draw a suspect who stole a car out of the vehicle and handcuff him or her safely.

Officer Robert Brian said students in the camp also will learn about crime scene investigation, how to clear a building, what to do in an active shooter situation and firearm safety.

"It's not just to teach them how to shoot guns, because a lot of the kids already know how," Brian said. "We go over more of the safety aspect, how to treat the weapon."

Zeph Putnam, 17, also is an Explorer sergeant. Putnam said the program is an opportunity for public service.

"You also meet a lot of people who are like-minded, who have the same potential career paths that they're trying to follow," he said. "The majority are highly motivated."

Putnam said he wants to join the military or go into paramedicine. The program's training is helping him prepare to reach his career goals, he said.

"It's prepared me mentally -- exposure to high-stress situations, even simulations to high-stress situations," he said.

Matthew Smith, 17, is part of the Upshur County Explorer Academy, but attended the Longview camp.

"They've been very helpful to newcomers, very keen on trying to tell you what is right, what is wrong, making sure you are doing what you need to be doing to get things done," he said.

The Upshur County program started last year, and it's still a work in progress, Smith said.

"Here, they have all the equipment they need; they have a program that's been around longer, and they have more people," he said. "At the same time, you get to see how (the Upshur County program is) made."

Smith said some of the skills learned at camp, such as handcuffing and active shooter drills, he will take back to the Upshur County program.

Overall, Brian said the program and camp helps students grow and learn about law enforcement.

"Some of them, they've never done anything else, and this builds their self-esteem," he said. "It teaches them how to work with people they don't know."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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