GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – Grand Rapids police have launched a program where officers go to schools to recruit young people who are interested in law enforcement.
The “Explorer” program gives students who are between 14- and 21-years-old real-world career experiences in law enforcement.
The program is aimed at adding more diversity to the Grand Rapids Police Department.
Even after the events in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City, officers tell News8 that more young people of color are changing their opinions, and want to start a career in law enforcement.
“I always kind of look at them as they’re the bad guys,” said 19-year-old Emily Lopez, a student at Covenant House Academy.
“I wasn’t a great student in high school,” GRPD Sgt. Joe Trigg said.
“I hung out on Eastern and Franklin. I’m not hanging out on Eastern and Franklin now,” GRPD Officer Connie Morris told students.
Officer Morris and Sgt. Trigg spoke to students at Covenant House Academy Monday about how life experiences can actually make someone a better officer.
“Some of the things they went through are the exact same things I’ve gone through,” said Lopez.
Lopez is pregnant with her third child. She relates to Officer Morris who was a single mother when she joined the force.
“I had to study, I had to run, I had to find a babysitter,” Officer Morris told students.
Tre-Vyon Mayhue, 19, is a student at Covenant House Academy who is also looking to put on the uniform.
“Riding in the back of the car make you wonder and have like ideas of what it feels like to be a hero driving in the front part of the car,” said Mayhue
“How many people know that Grand Rapids Police Department has a little bit of tilt in their look, don’t look like you,” Officer Morris said.
This years’ police class is the most diverse in 10 years. Of the 13 officers, there are two black men, one Hispanic man, one black woman and one white woman.
GRPD wants that number to continue to increase.
The GRPD Explorer program has 25 spots per year. The application deadline of this year is Feb. 13.
The department is also accepting applications for the Youth Police Academy. The program has 50 spots and the application deadline is April 2.