Parks and Recs holds Junior Police Academy at Opelika Police Department for first time

Published: Jun. 20, 2022 at 6:12 PM EDT
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OPELIKA, Ala. (WTVM) - Today, children learned what it takes to be a police officer in Opelika. The program is part of a city-wide effort to build relationships between law enforcement and the community.

The kids came in with hundreds of questions for our law enforcement that eventually got answered. Still, they learned about the meaning of being a law enforcement official, K9 duties, and even got an inside look at a police car.

The Junior Police Academy is planned with the Parks and Recreation every year around summertime. This is the first year it has been officially held at the Opelika Police Department, and the kids were more than thrilled to get a private tour of where officers work. Sergeant Johnathan Whaley, who is over the resource officer division, says this academy teaches the kids what each division specially is in charge of.

“It’s very important to have to build that relationship with the kids, let them get to know us, build that relationship with us, so they’re not scared of us. Show them the different resources we have the different divisions we have within the department. When they need us, they feel a little bit more comfortable coming to us.”

The 27 kids experienced the front and back seat of being in a police car while officer Whaley demonstrated the buttons in the vehicle. A K9 demonstration was performed by Roger, who is used to find narcotics, and K9 Melanie, who specializes in finding missing kids and suspects. K9 Handler Jon Fordham says it’s important to show the kids how a K9 operates outside of what they see in movies.

“It’s really important to see that they are animals that play with us and act like dogs, just normally dogs that are well trained and do what we ask them to do.”

The academy wrapped up with the kid’s favorite part. The detective department showcased how they were able to find fingerprints for crime scenes and allowed the kids to participate in the process.

Whaley says when kids are shown the behind-the-scenes of the police department, they become less intimidated by officers. He says it is open for anyone to take a tour.

“We would love to do more of these, even if it’s not through parks and recs. Just call me and let me know.”

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