A number of partners worked together to pull off the first-ever Monroe Police Department Youth Academy, including the the King County Sheriff’s Office, which brought a helicopter to show students.
A number of partners worked together to pull off the first-ever Monroe Police Department Youth Academy, including the the King County Sheriff’s Office, which brought a helicopter to show students.

Students of the first Monroe Police Department Youth Academy started their summer with a crash course in all things law enforcement.

They acted out traffic stops and drug busts, and worked with professional K9s. The goal of the weeklong training was twofold — to get kids familiar with the facets of the profession and teach them solid skills they can use at any job, Sgt. Spencer Robinson said, standing in front of a grounded King County Sheriff’s Office helicopter.

The neighboring county agency stepped in to demonstrate air-support equipment on Thursday, June 28, when the partner they had previously lined up was pulled for a last-minute assist in Oregon, he said. Academy students patiently waited while their peers took turns inside Washington’s “only full-time rotary-wing law enforcement aviation unit,” according to the sheriff’s office, on the open fields west of the Evergreen State Fairgrounds.

Although Julie Rodriguez plans to pursue nursing for now, the new Monroe High School graduate has considered a career in law enforcement on and off.

“I still am,” she said. “I am still open to it.”

The work runs in her family. Rodriguez’s brother-in-law has two sisters who work for the MPD. She heard about the academy through her own sibling, and thought it sounded like a good opportunity. 

“I knew I was going to learn a lot,” she said.

One lesson that stuck out was the tactics used to investigate a crime scene. She said she was pleasantly surprised to find out success depends on coordinating as a team.

Robinson said the first training was open to incoming freshmen and outgoing seniors. There were a few more future freshmen that attended, but it surprised him that almost the same amount of girls signed up as boys.

“It’s a cool thing to see,” he said.

About one in eight local police officers are women, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Justice. They fill even fewer supervisor positions, according to at 2013 report.

Robinson said he coordinated with the Marysville Police Department to put together this year’s academy. Without the agency’s help, he isn’t sure the MPD would have been able to pull it off, at least as smoothly.

The curriculum was partly based on Marysville’s youth academy program, Robinson said. While tailoring logistics to fit Monroe, staff also coordinated with members of the area’s business community, including the Monroe Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, he said.

Robinson said the department wanted to incorporate skill-building lessons, which students would be able to take into the workforce. First they wanted to know what employers are looking for. The answers they received ranged from being able to communicate and work with a variety of personalities, to integrity and a strong work ethic, he said.

One exercise focused on teamwork. Robinson said the kids were broken up into two groups and pitted against each other in a competition. Some members started out more reserved, but when they saw the other team was moving ahead, were inspired to lean into the discomfort, and begin to put themselves out there more, he said.

The academy lasted five days, and was held from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. every day at the Cascade Community Church, Robinson said. Lunches were provided by the community. Artisan Foodworks and Sahara Pizza catered, while Sally Petty and Susan Whitfield covered the bill, he said.

Marysville Police were on scene to assist with this year’s academy, Robinson said. With the amount of resources it takes to put together, it is more likely the training will be hosted once every few years

The department’s annual Citizen’s Academy is 11 weeks long, and usually starts in the fall.

Robinson said the youth academy needed at least a dozen students to go on this year. The maximum was set at 25, and they reached capacity.

“No one was turned down,” he said.

Kids found out through word-of-mouth and on social media, Robinson said. The MPD’s Monroe High School resource officer, Justin Springer, also helped spread the word.

Each student walked away from Friday’s graduation with a certificate stating what they learned, Robinson said. Even if they have never had a job before, the teens could take that documentation to show future employers, he said.

“Whether they are interested in law enforcement or not, they will learn something and leave with a skill they can use later on down the road in life,” Robinson said.