SHAWNEE, Kan. — Teenagers are getting a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to be a police officer in Shawnee, Kansas, this week. The department launched its first Youth Police Academy this summer.
During the academy, 21 participants between the ages of 13 and 17 learn how being a police officer differs from what they see in movies and TV shows.
Organizers say transparency is the goal of the academy, and if along the way teenagers develop an interest in becoming a police officer later in life, that’s great.
Recruitment has been a topic among police departments across the United States recently. Cities in the Kansas City metro area such as Shawnee and Overland Park, Kansas, have current openings. Other organizations such as Kansas City, Missouri, Kansas City, Kansas, and Leawood, Kansas, accept applications all year round.
"When it comes to recruiting we found that we don't want to wait until the day someone is looking for a job,” explained Sgt. Craig Herrmann with the Community Outreach Unit of the Shawnee police department. “We want people to understand what law enforcement is about long before they would think about applying for a job or starting a career because we've had people come in and apply for a police officer, adults, who don't fully understand what we do.”
One teenager in the academy has a pretty good grasp on police work. Jaden Lordon’s father is a police officer in Shawnee. Now, Jaden, who will be a senior in high school next year, is considering following his father’s footsteps and joining the department.
He said even though he knew what his father does, he still learned how important it is for department to have enough officers on staff.
“They are extremely important,” Lordon said. “Without them crime would be able to go on unrepentant and we wouldn't have anybody to be that front line to stop it."
Shawnee already plans to host another Youth Police Academy next summer.