BUCKHANNON — Students put their knowledge to the test Friday in a mock crime scene set up as part of the final day of the Buckhannon Police Department’s youth police academy.
The students were each given specific tasks and were able to draw a connection between the murder scene and a mock accident investigated earlier in the week.
The scenarios were all part of a “jam-packed” week of activities for the participants who attended the half-day sessions, according to BPD chief Matt Gregory.
The group of 15 students was split into two for the first part of the week to allow more time for hands-on activities, Gregory said.
“We always start out the week doing an overview of what it takes to be a police officer,” he said. “We do a tour of the facility and we talk about the importance of partnering and working closely with others — not only other law enforcement agencies but other public safety complexes. In that vein, we toured the fire department.”
The first day also gave the participants a chance to try out the DUI simulator from the Alcohol Beverage Control Administration.
“We talked about how we process DUIs and some of the evidence we gather from the field sobriety tests, how the different pieces of equipment work, everything from portable breathalyzers to the Intoximeter,” he said. “The simulator allowed them to drive a computerized car and simulate the effects of impairment. We also used the impairment goggles as we did field tests to show them some of the things we look for when we test for impairment.”
On day two, the students toured the Upshur County E-911 Center and learned about what the Upshur County Office of Emergency Management does.
“We also did mock traffic stops and showed them how one can be very different from the other,” he said.
Using a training radio frequency, the participants were even able to communicate with the Upshur County E-911 Center and relay information about the wreck.
The wreck was designed by BPD intern Sayaka Foley, who came up with a variety of scenarios for the students to witness.
“We told her to not do the same one twice,” Gregory said.
On Wednesday, councilwoman and outgoing commander of the American Legion Post 7 Mary Albaugh taught a citizenship lesson.
Next, the students investigated and processed a mock accident scene set up in the public safety complex parking lot and learned how the database for accidents works.
The last part of the day included an equipment demonstration of some of the tools the BPD uses in their duties.
On Thursday, a representative from the West Virginia State Police Crime Lab did a “wonderful, very thorough presentation on all the segments of the lab,” Gregory said. “She talked about how forensics works and covered everything from fingerprints to DNA. She got so specific, she started talking about the difference between nuclear DNA and mitochondrial DNA and analytical evaluations and comparative evaluations. She also did some demonstrations. She had them touch pieces of paper and processed that to show how fingerprints can be processed on porous surfaces.”
Water bottles the participants had been using were then put in a fuming chamber to develop fingerprints.
Friday began with a speaker from the FBI to discuss social media safety.
“He had some website resources he shared with them, including sos.fbi.gov,” Gregory said. “That is a safe site for third through eighth-graders that teaches them how to be safe on the internet.”
The week concluded with the mock crime scene, where participants were able to take what was learned throughout the week and apply it to the new challenge.
Gregory said, “First and foremost, I hope they had fun and they enjoyed themselves. I hope they were able to learn something about police work and criminal justice in general — something they may not have known beforehand.”
Eleven-year-old Cage Rodrigue, was taking notes for the photographer at the mock crime scene.
He said he had a great time at the academy.
“I learned that police work is harder than it seemed,” he said.
However, Rodrigue said he is still interested in a career in law enforcement.
Gregory said his favorite part is having the youth participants interacting with the police officers.
“I had a young man who attended the police academy a couple years ago who wants me to write him a recommendation letter for an internship,” he said. “I hope we are able to establish those relationships.”
The next youth police academy will be held in 2019.