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Cadets get feel for law enforcement careers
They come running in the morning
I-Junior Law pic 1
Hector of the K-9 unit attacks Cpl. Jessica Kraft during a demonstration last week at Junior Law Enforcement Academy at Dawson County Junior High School. - photo by Amy French Dawson County News

State troopers Steve Thompson and Jeremy Allison of the Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team visited last week with students at Dawson County Junior High School.

"Can anybody tell me what a black box on an airplane does?" asked Thompson.

Nearly 40 students sat with quizzical looks before someone offered up the right answer-that the black box records what goes on in a plane.

Thompson told the kids that cars have something similar, known as an air bag control module that troopers can tap into in the event of an accident. That device can tell them how fast the vehicle was going, which passengers were wearing seatbelts, whether the brakes were applied and more, according to Thompson.

It is all a part of the process of putting together the puzzle pieces of a fatal car accident and the group of rising fifth through seventh graders listened intently as Thompson and his partner from the Georgia State Patrol detailed the process.

It was only one of many demonstrations and activities last week during the Dawson County Sheriff's Office Junior Law Enforcement Academy.

"For any law enforcement agency to be successful, they must have the support and trust of their community," said Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson. "This program allows our community's youth to interact with our officers personally in a positive light therefore allowing that trust to be established."

The day camp ran all week from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Thompson and Jeremy Allison cover 21 counties in North Georgia where they are called to the scene of fatal accidents.

"We will investigate the scene and then turn the case over to the district attorney's office," Thompson said.

The two demonstrated a tool known as a total station. The tool is electronic and uses distance measurement to help officers map out the roadway or area where the accident occurred.

"A collision scene or a crash scene is just like a crime scene," Thompson told the kids.

There is evidence left. There are witnesses to interview. They are just investigated a little differently, he explained.

"The kids loved it," said Sergeant Shane Henson about the academy. "They come running in in the morning. Some of the parents said they wished it were that easy to get them ready for school."

"The numbers were encouraging and the kids were great," Johnson said. "The officers constantly bragged about how well behaved and respectful these students were. It was definitely a rewarding week for our officers."

Over the course of the week students are able to participate in air soft target shooting, first aid, paintball, learning how to conduct a traffic stop and crime scene investigation among others.

Each day begins with breakfast and a briefing before beginning one of the lessons.

"This year's group loved the K-9 demonstration and crime scene investigations," Henson said.

Cpl. Jessica Kraft and Cpl. Zach Smith from the North Georgia K-9 Task Force brought their Belgian Malinois dogs, Kimbo and Hector, out for a demonstration of their training.

Students had the chance to see first-hand how a friendly, playful, though well-trained animal, can go from docile to fiercely aggressive in seconds.

Smith held Hector on a leash while Kraft approached aggressively with protective gear on her arm. Hector immediately was on edge and when Smith let him go, the battle was on.

One student wanted to know how often they train the animals.

"We are always training them," Kraft said.

The animals even go home with the officers as the relationship is fostered round the clock.

The camp is now in its 20th year and continues to give Dawson County students a chance to see what life as a police officer is like in a variety of capacities.

"It is our hope that this personal interaction will foster positive, long-term, trusting relationships between these young adults and our law enforcement professionals," Johnson said.

Thompson asked the kids how many would be going into law enforcement. Hands shot up-more than half the gathered students.

"That's good," Thompson said. "This day and time, we need good folks and good officers."