PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — They’re only teenagers now, but in just a few years, they could be wearing a badge and patrolling your neighborhood.
The Metro High School Police Academy – the academy before the police academy — kicked off its nineteenth year Monday in Kent County.
Nearly three dozen teens are taking part in hands-on training –- fake guns and all –- and more time in the classroom than you might realize. And it’s not a blow-off class.
“Oh crap, we did something wrong — time for some pushups,” joked Jarod Withers, who is heading into his senior year at Comstock Park High School in the fall.
“It’s been tough actually, to be honest,” said Sammie Ryans, who just graduated from East Kentwood High School.
In light of recent events in Baltimore, Ferguson, Mo. and Texas, among other places, some cities are struggling to recruit officers.
But police in West Michigan say their numbers are steady — at both this high school police academy and the real police academies in the region.
“We haven’t seen that backlash yet… could that happen, sometime in the next couple of years, yes,” said Wyoming Police Lt. Mark Easterly. “Do I necessarily want to get in a job where I’m under the microscope 100 percent of the time?”
The teens involved in the Metro High School Police Academy do. They say they understand the struggles — and scrutiny — that police are facing across the nation.
“It’s unfortunate because they’re the ones that are willing to lay down their lives for the people who are bashing them and starting riots – [people aren’t] hearing the full story and that’s unfortunate,” Withers said.
Some of the teens involved in the academy could be the ones to help turn around a seemingly worsening perception of police.
“If I can help people, if I can serve people the way I can, I’ll always be a help to society,” Ryans said.
“It’s not what people think it is, what they hear on TV about it,” Withers said. “It’s more mental toughness and being able to handle things a lot of people can’t.”
On Tuesday, the teens will be spending the day at Grand Valley State University’s police academy. Then on Friday, a graduation ceremony will take place.