A group of Abbotsford teens got the chance to test their street smarts as cops this week as members of the Abbotsford Junior Police Academy.
A total of 22 students from Grades 11 and 12 from various Abbotsford high schools spent their first week of spring break learning what it takes to be a police officer.
"This is a week we always really look forward to," said APD youth squad officer and JPA coordinator Const. Robyn Lamarche.
"It provides students a glimpse of what it's like to be a police officer by testing their abilities as if they were one."
To get accepted into the academy students were selected from a group of 40 applicants and had to undergo fairly rigorous entry requirements that included criminal and driving record checks, good academic records, references and an interview.
This week the teens combined classroom work involving legal studies and talks from officers of various departments with practical skills such as control tactics, use-of-force training, crime scene work, traffic stops and even a day at the firearms range.
All the students also go on a ride-along with a police officer during a real shift out on the road.
Grade 12 Yale Secondary student Jesse Worley said he applied to the academy because he was interested in a career in law enforcement and wanted to see if he would like it.
"It's a great opportunity to try policing out and see if it's something I'd like to do," said Worley, taking a break from practising traffic stops on Tuesday afternoon.
"It's been really interesting so far."
He found his ride-along and the presentation by the APD emergency response team particularly interesting.
He was intrigued by how much information forensic investigators could glean from a crime scene.
"They have this 'magnetic dust' that goes over a foot print that makes it dead clear what shoe a suspect is wearing," said Worley.
"They can also tell how fast someone was running or walking by looking at a shoe print."
Tori Parks, a Grade 11 student at MEI, said she applied to the JVP because she'd always wanted to be a cop.
"I think this is awesome. I've learned a lot of stuff," said the 16-year-old, adding she enjoyed hearing from the various units within the APD, such as the police dog handlers or forensic officers.
"It's not just sitting at a desk. It's a lot of hands-on, which is nice," she said.
Parks expressed particular interest in the emergency response team.
"It can be scary but it would be a real cool thing to do."
Both students were especially looking forward to real firearms practice at the range and applying the knowledge they learned on Friday, when they have to resolve problems as "police officers" during scenario-based training.
Parks said one thing she's learned to appreciate is that police have to be able to think things through.
"A lot of people think police officers can do anything [they wish] but they have to use a lot of discretion," she said.