Danville Police Department’s Youth Police Academy shows kids ropes and builds relationships

Published: Jun. 20, 2023 at 5:29 PM EDT
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DANVILLE, Va. (WDBJ) - The Danville Police Department is showing kids what it’s like to be a police officer. The Danville Police Department’s Youth Police Academy takes place over three weeks and is for ages 9-17.

Throughout the camp, the kids get to take a closer look at the criminal justice system and the day-to-day lives of police officers.

“Everybody’s seen the bad experiences you have with police, but the Danville Police Department is trying to show that we’re human,” said David Ferguson, sergeant over Community Engagement. “There are people under these uniforms.”

Each day, they participate in ROTC team building training, listen to guest speakers, and have free time to play games.

“I think it’s fun how the police officers get to interact with the kids and play games with the kids,” said Natalie Richardson, Youth Police Academy member.

The goal is to build a strong relationship with the younger generation and have a positive influence on their futures.

“We want to get them to know us on a personal level. So, as they grow, when they do come into problems or if they see something and they don’t know if they should say anything, they may feel a personal bond with one of the police officers that we have in the in the Youth Police Academy, and they might reach out, whether it be for help or resources for themselves or somebody else,” added Sgt. Ferguson.

Tuesday morning, the kids got to watch four officers move up in rank at a promotion ceremony.

“We really want them to see that once you get in a field of police work, there are different opportunities out there. If you work hard, you can advance. It’s a good thing to see somebody get promoted and bring their family in. So, hopefully they got to see and feel the same thing, and maybe one day we’ll get them as new recruits,” said Sgt. Ferguson.

They started the academy in 2018 with 25 kids. This year, they have 47.

“We have a couple of them here that probably have more equipment than I do. So, I think it’s probably two of them that I think we’ll see go through the whole process and then end up one day being police officers,” explained Sgt. Ferguson.

“I could see myself being a police officer one day, maybe,” added Richardson.

Thursday, they will go to the General District Court to watch a court case. At the end of the three weeks, they will also get to have their own graduation ceremony.