Decatur Police taking applications for free police academy for teens

DECATUR, Ala. - The police department is taking applications for a new volunteer summer program to give teenagers an inside look at what law enforcement professionals really do. It also hopes to bridge a gap with the city's teenagers.

It's called the Explorer Post, consider it a police academy for teenagers.

"Some are scared of us so I wanted to lessen that and let them know we're normal people," said Safety Education Officer Heather Atchley. "If they can learn our job, they can accept us more."

The program is three-day a week, for three weeks, for teens between ages 14 and 17.

Detectives, investigators, patrol officers, and other law enforcement personnel will teach classes to give them an idea of the day-to-day lives of a real officer.

Plus, its not a classroom thing, it's heavily hands on.

"[Participants will] move around with our CSI, our crime scene investigators, actually work a crime scene, go to dispatch and see different things they do in there," explained Lieutenant Proncey Robertson.

Parents, be reassured that your teens won't be put in harm's way.

Officers say graduating from the program is only the beginning of an ongoing relationship with Decatur police.

"What we hope here is that they continue to have activities and interaction with our police officers and are volunteers here at the police department," said Lt. Robertson.

After completion, teen volunteers get to work parades, traffic duty, and other age-appropriate assignments.

For any teen considering a career in law enforcement, it can be a great tool to get them ready to apply when they are old enough. But even for those with no interest in a career as an officer, it can help build trust between officers and the adults of tomorrow.

"It's so important for them to start building an understanding of who the police are in their communities," said Lt. Robertson.

The Explorer Post is completely free. Interested youth can get an application from any Decatur school resource officer or contact Safety Education Officer Heather Atchley at her e-mail hlatchley@decatur-al.gov. The first academy class will begin on June 5th, 2017.  

Applications will be accepted until May 25th, 2017. 

Decatur Police also welcome help from any business or sponsor with ideas or funds to support the program.