HANCOCK COUNTY — Sitting underneath the trees, chilling out in the shade in the front yard of Greenfield-Central High School, several dozen area youth watched K-9 Spike and his handler from the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department, Deputy Scott Chapman, show off their skills during a training session in the back of a pick-up truck around noon Tuesday.
The work was just one of the many demonstrations local county law enforcement shared as instructors during the 2022 Teen Police Academy. In addition to sharing details about drug investigations, the county’s SWAT team, the K-9 program, firearms training and more, the teens and law enforcement also focused on building better community relationships.
The camp included some competitive events like tug-o-war and a “massive mess war” Wednesday afternoon plus a visit from local fire trucks who came out and sprayed the teens and officers during the brutally hot afternoon where temperatures were forecast as high as 96 degrees.
Greenfield Police Department Sgt. Justin Jackson took over the leadership role for the week-long camp, that started Monday and runs through Friday, after Sheriff’s Capt. Bridget Foy, who started the academy years ago, had to focus on her duties at the county’s new jail and could not attend.
For Jackson, who has been a part of the teen academy for the past several years as an instructor, getting a chance to work with area teens and help set everything as the camp leader, as well as share more about police work, was an ideal opportunity for him.
“Our main goal isn’t necessarily to get kids to want to join the law enforcement, but it’s to expose them to law enforcement to show them we’re human beings too and we can have fun,” Jackson said. “This camp gives us great interaction with the kids.”
The idea is, if down the road a student who takes part in the camp and their friends have issues, they’ll reach out to law enforcement and know they have a friend, someone who can help and be trusted.
“If you look over the past several years, law enforcement has had a roller coaster ride, so something like this camp can show that we are good people and here for the right reasons to help,” Jackson said.
This year’s countywide camp, called “22-05” because it’s the fifth teen academy officials have offered, attracted the largest class size to date with 57 kids ages 13 to 17 signing up and 50 actually taking part.
Chapman works as the camps’ lead instructor and said he loves bringing K-9 Spike in to showcase how well canines work with law enforcement and how well they can work with the community.
“I love doing this,” Chapman said. “It’s important that we show youth that we are normal people and are approachable.”
Chapman noted he’s lucky working with a canine officer like Spike because the dog does make people want to interact more with him, and that’s what law enforcement wants — good relationships in the community.
“It’s really all about the dog more than it is me,” he said with a laugh. “I’m just the driver and Spike is a very social dog and that’s helpful for someone like me who likes to work in the schools and be around the kids.”
Chapman always tells area youth being in the canine business is the best job in the department and that also shows teens there are varying fields of law enforcement they might like to get into.
Recent Mt. Vernon High School graduate Adalyn Jackson, whose parents are both in law enforcement, was encouraged to attend the camp when it first started several years ago. This year, she’s helped out as a student instructor and said it has been enjoyable meeting all the law enforcement officials and learning more about the real work they do.
“It’s all very interesting — things like investigations — I like learning about that kind of stuff,” she said. “It’s also nice to know if my friends or I have a problem the police will always be there to help, and they don’t want to judge you.”
Tyler Dean, a senior at New Palestine High School, said he might go into the law enforcement and has attended the camp for the past several years to learn as much about the field as he can.
“The biggest thing I take away from this camp every year is how to work as a team,” he said. “Learning to get along with people and do things with others teaches you that you are never alone, and it’s nice to know you’ve always got someone to help you out.”
Greenfield-Central High School resource officer Josh Mullins, who works with teens throughout the school year, has helped at the academy every summer. He likes the chance to get to know other county teens in the hopes they’ll too reach out to him down the road if they need a friend.
“I love seeing all the county kids here,” Mullins said. “I get to know the Greenfield-Central kids because I’m here all the time, but the camp has kids from all over, and we like seeing that.”
In addition to the many demonstrations surrounding law enforcement, the teens also had the chance to tour the county’s police departments and take a tour of the new jail. A graduation ceremony is slated for Friday, June 17.