LAKE FOREST — A group teenagers spent several days at the Lake Forest police station learning actual police work is nothing like what they see on television.
“You really have to work at it,” said Akindele Aboyade-Cole, a School of St. Mary’s eighth grader from Lake Bluff. “It’s not at all what you see on CSI, where they put things in a machine and you get the suspect,” he added referring to the CBS television show.
Aboyade-Cole and 13 other seventh and eighth graders from Lake Forest schools participated in the Lake Forest Police Department’s first Junior Citizen’s Police Academy June 12-16 at the department’s Deerpath Road headquarters.
With a lot of hands-on activities, the students learned how to process a crime scene, work with simulated situations, and defend themselves if necessary. They also learned about the intricacies of a traffic stop, and they got an introduction to SWAT, according to officer Conrad Christensen, the school resource officer for Lake Forest School District 67.
Christensen said he started the program because of the success of the adult academy, which introduces residents to police work. He also saw it as an opportunity to give teens a positive experience with police.
“We’re looking for ways to build relationships with kids and make it count,” Christensen said. “We want to be a role model. We hope they will have a positive experience and go home to tell their families (and friends) about it.”
All the students in the program either go to school in Lake Forest or live in the city, according to Christensen. He said they will all be seventh or eighth graders in the fall at Deer Path Middle School, Lake Forest Country Day School or the School of St. Mary.
The teens learned the action they see on television rarely happens with Lake Forest police activity. Joey Nassar, a St. Mary’s 8th grader, said television is all action. He said the reality he has observed at the academy is evidence is carefully prepared to build a case.
“TV is all about action but that’s not the most important part of it,” said Nassar. “It’s more about all the forensic stuff. There’s a lot of shooting on TV.”
Neither Christensen nor officer Mike Hughes can remember a time in the last 10 years when a member of the Lake Forest Police Department has fired a gun at a person.
“We’re had to shoot animals a few times,” said Hughes. “One time 10 years ago we had to use the bean bag shot gun, but that’s about it.”
Christensen and Hughes taught the course with officer Misa Maj.
Though Paige Roby, a Lake Forest Country Day eighth grader, said she does not frequently watch police shows, she does see CSI on occasion. After learning how the local police process a crime scene and gather evidence, she has a different view.
“On TV it’s all shortened and fast,” said Roby. “Here you really have to search and take your time.”
During their June 13 session, the teens learned how police go about making traffic stops. Christensen said he wants them to understand much of what is done is both for the safety of the motorist and the officer.
Christensen said he wanted the students to understand why warnings are often handed out to errant motorists rather than tickets. He said more than half the time in Lake Forest drivers get a warning. He said that is the norm when a headlight is not functioning or a registration has expired.
“They’re not going to have such a bad feeling about the police,” said Christensen. “They’ll remember why and think about it when they’re driving.”
Though it may be more likely a motorist will get a warning than a ticket, Nassar said he learned the police are always prepared for potential trouble.
“They’re ready to pull out their gun if they need to,” said Nassar.
Roby said neither she nor members of her family had much contact with the police, and she decided to go to the academy to learn more about what they do. Aboyade-Cole wanted to get a closer look at police work.
“I wanted to see how police do things, said Aboyade-Cole. “This has let me get an up close look.”