Teens learn public safety through hands-on training, build ties with police
Fifteen-year-old Greta Mueller pulled her car over and sat still as two police cars stopped behind her flashing their red and blue emergency lights.
“Driver in the vehicle, put your hands up,” a man said over a loudspeaker.
“Throw the keys out the window,” the man continued.
Out went the keys.
“Now, put your hands out of the window,” the man said.
Mueller acquiesced and continued to follow the man’s detailed instructions.
He told her to open her car door, get out, and stand with her hands up. With her back facing the police cars, she was ordered to walk backward until she was close enough to the police cars to be arrested.
But Mueller wasn’t apprehended by your typical police officers.
They were boys and girls her own age.
Mueller is a member of the North Hills Law Enforcement Explorer Program.
Run mutually by the West Deer and Hampton police departments, it gives teenagers the opportunity to see what it’s like to work in public safety or law enforcement through classroom and hands-on training.
The program started last February after a junior firefighter asked West Deer K-9 Officer Edward Newman what it was like to be a cop.
“He kept asking me, ‘What is it like being a policeman?’ ” said Newman, the program’s lead adviser. “I went into the chief and I said, ‘Hey, I have a couple of kids that are interested in it.’ And we started from there.”
Meetings are from 7 to 9 p.m. the second and fourth Thursday of each month.
The most recent lesson, held on a recent Thursday at the West Deer police station, was on traffic stops.
Mueller played the part of a suspect pulled over by police officers, who were actually her fellow classmates. Her classmate Sami Stipetich, 19, made the “arrest.”
“It was fun,” Mueller said of the experience. “It was really fun.”
Dakota Hanasik, 15, of West Deer, said the program is a great way to learn about law enforcement, which she wants to get into when she graduates. Forensics really interests her.
“It’s a lot of what goes into solving the crimes: finding the information that’s not there to see with the plain eye,” she said.
Brenna Johnson, 14, of Hampton, likes that the program is hands-on. She, too, wants to pursue a career in law enforcement.
“I want to be a K-9 officer,” she said.
The program teaches participants about a wide variety of subjects that aren’t limited to police work.
This year, members were able to watch a medical helicopter land and talk to the pilot and the medics; learn how to handcuff suspects; and meet a Secret Service agent who served on President Barack Obama’s protective detail.
Mueller wants to be an FBI field agent or ATF agent when she grows up. She enjoyed meeting the Secret Service agent.
The program not only teaches teens about public safety, it also gives the police the opportunity to get to know them in non-emergency situations.
It’s open to anyone ages 14 to 19.
“It’s nice for them cause they get to see if this is really something they want to do and get a little more realistic view of what we do,” said Matthew Evan, a West Deer police officer and program adviser. “And the other thing is it’s nice to just (have) a positive interaction with the kids.
“As opposed to us showing up when something’s wrong, we get to do something with them when it’s not just for an issue.”
Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Madasyn at 724-226-4702, [email protected] or via Twitter .