Academy gives teens a taste of police work

Burbank Police Department Youth Academy students got a little on-the-job training this summer through a partnership with the Burbank Unified School District's Regional Occupation Program.

The youth academy has been missing an academic element since the involvement of the district's Regional Occupation Program was cut more than six years ago, said Burbank Police officer Peter Eirich, the academy's director.

"Now with the Regional Occupation Program we added additional ways of making the students all successful entry-level law enforcement candidates," Eirich said.

In previous years the academy has been a way for young people in Burbank to get both an education in law enforcement and an inside look into the everyday lives of officers.

Some students come for the opportunity to gain experience in their chosen career field, Eirich said. The three-week program offers students access to demonstrations from all of the departments of the Burbank Police Department.

Other youths are pressured by parents to become involved in the program due to bad behaviors, he said.

"Some of the kids are trying to turn their lives around," he said.

Six of the 20 students enrolled in the Youth Academy this summer — those that were also enrolled in the ROP — were the first since at least 1999 to get class credit and a Regional Occupation Program certificate along with their certificate of completion for the youth academy.

Students can then continue their studies at Burbank or John Burroughs high schools in law enforcement with a five-credit class that delves deeper into the subject, said Sue Boegh, director of Educational Support Services for the district.

"It gives students an opportunity to learn about the occupations that are available in law enforcement and I think students enjoy the class because they see demonstrations of real police work," Boegh said.

They also participate in mock versions of police work.

For their final on Thursday, the class worked in teams to handle a mock police call about an elderly woman who was disoriented.

Later, they had a simulated job interview and identified vandalism throughout the city and documented it in mock police reports. The afternoon ended with a physical fitness test at Burbank High's field.

"Let's do this," said Edwyn Alarcon, an 18-year-old Monterey High School student in the program.

He laid down on his back and readied himself to do sit-ups on the grass.

The test also included push-ups and a mile run, all timed with the hopes that the students would best themselves from previous clockings. Even though physical activity was a mainstay of the program, the past three weeks were enlightening in other ways for Alarcon and other students, he said.

"Before I wasn't really interested, but now I have a better understanding," said 16-year-old Alvaro Valdez, a Burroughs High student.

"It's a lot of hard work. We learned a lot of new things, from the SWAT team to the K-9 units."

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