Spaces are quickly filling for Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle's annual junior law enforcement academy.
Now in its 16th year, the summer camp provides students with hands-on simulation to all aspects of local law enforcement, from crime scene investigations, patrol and weapons, to manhunts, use of force and defense tactics.
"It's fun to work with the kids and it gives them something to do in the summer. They get to learn a little bit about our job, and maybe it gives them some interest in what they might want to do when they grow up," Carlisle said.
Since the program's inception in 1997, it has grown from about 20 cadets to more than 150 in 2012.
"It's fun for them, and it's fun for the officers to get out and do it. A lot of the cadets are repeaters. They come back year after year because they enjoy it," he said.
Deputies from the divisions of the sheriff's office join school resource officers to teach during the camps.
Maj. Tony Wooten said he has deputies that "find ways to make sure they can volunteer their time to the kids."
"Each year, they come out, hang out with the kids, have a good time and make sure they send the right messages to kids about the role of law enforcement," he said.
Held at Dawson County Middle School from 8 a.m.-4 p.m., the academies are free and include lunch, snack and a cadet T-shirt.
"We're excited to be able to continue to offer the camps to the kids in our community free of charge," Wooten said. "Since the sheriff took office, he's taken a great interest in making sure that he provided the best community programs that he could to the citizens."
To be eligible, applicants must submit an essay describing why they want to participate in the academy. They also must be Dawson County residents who are enrolled in Dawson County schools or are home taught.
Camps are available for current fourth- through eighth-graders.
The weeklong camp for fourth-graders will be June 3-7, with fifth- and sixth-grader camp June 17-21.
Advanced academy for seventh- and eighth-graders will be June 11-13.
The deadline to register is May 22.
For more information, call Wooten at (706) 344-3535.