EDMORE — This village’s police department is taking community policing to a whole new level.
The first ever Edmore Youth Academy wrapped up Wednesday. Thirteen youths from ages 8 to 14 participated in the first session in mid-July while 10 youths participated in the second session, which ended Wednesday. The youths hailed from Blanchard, Carson City, Cedar Lake, Edmore, Howard City, Sheridan, Six Lakes and Stanton.
Edmore Police Chief Luke Sawyer said almost two dozen additional parents called after the sign-up deadline had passed, wanting their children to participate, which has given Sawyer the incentive to consider hosting another Youth Academy next summer.
“All of the feedback has been very positive,” he said.
Sawyer was originally inspired to host a Youth Academy as part of his department’s ongoing focus on community policing.
“We believe in community policing and a huge part of that is providing opportunities for our young people,” he said. “Doing a youth academy just made sense from the standpoint of allowing young people around our county to experience police training.”
Sawyer assigned Officer Sarah Chamberlain with the task of researching other youth academies around the country before deciding how to approach Edmore’s inaugural event.
“Our primary goal is not to make ‘future officers,’ but to make sure that every young person has fun and learns something new,” Sawyer said. “In an era where it seems like the word ‘community’ isn’t the norm, as it was when I was a kid, we have been very fortunate to have a full support of the village of Edmore. Businesses have donated food, residents have donated time and this has helped make the academy a huge success.”
Highlights of the two sessions included visiting the Montcalm County court complex, sheriff’s office, prosecutor’s office and emergency medical services.
Bryce Withey, 13, is the son of Dave and Charity Withey. He signed up for the academy after his father asked him whether he’d be interested.
“The scenarios where they set up something like a traffic stop were the coolest part,” Bryce said. “I thought they were cool because it felt like you were actually pulling somebody over. The handcuffing was interesting too. When you were handcuffed, it kind of hurt if you tried to run away.”
Bryce, who will be an eighth-grader at Montabella Community School this autumn, wants to be a police officer or a mechanic when he grows up (he’s undecided).
For any local children considering signing up for next summer’s academy, “I would say that they should do it because it’s a lot of fun and they can learn some really cool things,” Bryce said.
Sawyer said he and Chamberlain are already looking ahead to next summer. They are contemplating hosting one session for younger participants and another session for older teens, which will allow them to focus on different, age-appropriate material.
“I think the highlight for us was on day three of the academy,” Sawyer said. “On day three, the students were paired up and responded to actual police calls and had to put to use the skills that they had learned on the first two days of the academy. We were blessed to have community volunteers who gave their time to play our victims, suspects and witnesses. To watch their faces as they figured a solution out or remembered what they were taught to do was very rewarding.”
Visit the Edmore Police Department’s Facebook page for more information about the Youth Academy.