TEENS TRY THEIR HAND AT POLICE FORENSICS
D’Andre Fields dabbed the surface with magnetic powder, revealing a handprint on the white van’s side panel. It could have been a scene from a forensic drama like "CSI,” but at 14, Fields is learning that real-world crime scene investigation has its limits as well as its advantages. "I’ve learned the fact that everything that’s on TV for police work isn’t true,” said Fields, who still wants to be a crime scene investigator if he goes into law enforcement. More than two-dozen teens and tweens got a hands-on lesson in forensics Thursday as the Wilson Police Department’s Youth Police Academy took a trip to the city gun range. Nearly 30 kids ages 12-15 are getting an up-close look at the life of Wilson police officers in the youth academy, which began July 9 and wraps up with an Aug. 15 graduation ceremony. "It’s a good way to get to know other people and get to know what police officers do every day at work — the struggles they have and the abilities they have,” said Fields, an Elm City resident who attends Rocky Mount Preparatory, a public charter school.
The youth academy started with a lesson on life choices and the path to delinquency. Recent sessions have included a K-9 demonstration, overview of the physical endurance test police officers must pass and discussions on bullying and gangs. "It is the greatest feeling in the world to be able to work with youth in the community,” Police Chief Thomas Hopkins said. "We’re learning a lot about the kids and they’re learning a lot about us. It’s great.” Hopkins first suggested a youth academy when he was in charge of the Citizens Police Academy as the department’s hiring and recruitment coordinator. The program started before Hopkins became police chief and is back this summer after a hiatus of several years.