Stanley: Teens get hands-on law enforcement training
By Brian Stanley Life of Brianfirstname.lastname@example.org June 15, 2013 8:40PM
Updated: July 17, 2013 7:07AM
Most summer day camps don’t have extensive training on the appropriate use of lethal force.
But wallet-making is for a different program. This one arms teens with shotguns and tactical rifles.
Last week, the Romeoville Police Department held its annual Youth Academy for 14 students between 16- and 18-years-old who are interested in a career in law enforcement.
Sgt. Chris Burne said the program is similar to the citizen’s police academies offered to adults on weeknights in the spring, though the high school students participate in a daily physical fitness routine.
Students learned about gangs and drugs in the area, vehicle stops and traffic safety, what officers are — and are not — allowed to do under the law. They also worked with a police canine unit.
“I used to rescue dogs and I would love to be a canine officer,” Madison Duff said. “After all, I’d like to be the first one in my family who wasn’t behind the bars.”
The 17-year-old was joking, but she honestly enjoyed Friday’s firearms class even more than the canine experience. Before taking the students to the range, Burne and Officer Woody Jones used loose change to demonstrate the steadiness expected from a good marksman.
After students took a proper stance, the officers set quarters on the sights of their (unloaded) handguns to see how many times they could squeeze the triggers properly.
As military veterans, both instructors already have endured hours of practice with smaller coins.
“(Burne) was a military policeman in the Marines and I was an mp in the Army ... which we never argue about,” Jones said. “The more practice you do without shooting live rounds, the better marksman you’ll be when you do,” Burne told the students. “Seventy-five-percent of our police training is dry fire (without ammo).”
Duff said remembering proper breathing is the hardest part of preparing to shoot.
“You’re focused on keeping steady ... aiming ... you forget and hold your breath,” she explained.
Burne and Jones took students onto the department’s firing range individually. Students waited by watching through windows and taking pictures on their phones, but some passed the time talking with other officers about the unexpected parts of the job. The conversation topics during breaks included getting a pregnant bulldog into a squad car and strange things found in hotel rooms.
Sometimes the students had unexpected questions.
“What if someone pulled out a rocket launcher in the middle of Wal-Mart? I don’t know if there’s formal training for that specific scenario,” one officer said.
On the range, students were given earphones and safety goggles and stood seven yards from their target. With Burne and Jones standing on either side, they fired five rounds from a handgun, tactical rifle and shotgun. Most students found the rifle had a louder report, but less recoil than the handgun.
“I thought I was going to fall back with that shotgun though,” said Jordan Black, 17.
“They were heavy, I’m a little sore,” Kayla Snyder, 16, agreed. Kayla planned to put her damaged targets on the door of her bedroom “to warn people.”
Duff was among the last students to use the range. Her final shot with the handgun slightly widened a hole she’d already put there.
“My mom’s taken me (to the range) sometimes,” she admitted before questioning Burne about the shotgun recoil the students had been talking about.
“It’s got some kick,” he said. “But there’s really one way to find out.”
Duff picked up the weapon as her instructors began adjusting her stance.