Teens gain insight into law enforcement during first youth police academy in Iowa City

Several units explain their roles during weeklong program

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The Iowa City Police Department’s first Youth Police Academy has drawn fewer people than its adult iteration, but still is being considered a success.

The youth academy, which started Monday and ends Friday, is an abbreviated version of the police department’s popular Citizen’s Police Academy. Its aim is to teach 14- to 17-year-olds about law enforcement, and includes insights into the K9 unit, bomb squad, gangs and narcotics unit, firearms and collision investigations.

R.A. Mebus, the crime prevention officer for the Iowa City Police Department, said the adult program fills up each year, but the youth academy had room for 11 more students.

However, Mebus said the goal for this year was small­, to get the program started. At the end of the week, he said, the department will get feedback from students to improve the academy next year.

One change he said he would like to see is expanding the program to other age groups.

On Wednesday, the group toured the Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center and many of the teens said they didn’t know the animal shelter was part of the police department.

“The animal shelter is a really important place for kids to know about, that we exist and they can contact us for any animal-related issues,” said Willa Hamilton, animal services officer for Iowa City.

Logan Crawford, a 15-year-old from City High School, said he wants to go into law enforcement and was surprised by the technicality of the collision investigation unit.

“I thought they just looked at it (the crash) and put two and two together,” he said.

Sarah Graber, a 16-year-old from West High School, said she doesn’t want to go into law enforcement, but she has found the program interesting.

“I’m a person who really dislikes conflict, but I didn’t really know what law enforcement did and I think that’s an important thing for everyone to know about in the community,” she said.

Graber said the 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. setup particularly suited teenagers.

“It’s nice that it’s not all day,” she said. “We’re teenagers so we don’t want to wake up early in the morning.”

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