Youth Police Academy isn't just about law enforcement.
Program Coordinator PJ Hardy hopes students exit the week-long program with leadership, communication and team-building skills - as well as a greater understanding of what goes into keeping the community safe.
The Lebanon Police Department's Youth Police Academy began in 2007 and is held over Spring Break and the first week of Fall Break each year for students ages 11 to 18 county-wide.
"Yes it gives them something to do... but it also teaches them skills and to think outside the box," Hardy said.
The class met at the Jimmy Floyd Family Center on Tuesday, where they learned about the dangers of drug use.
"I know a lot of people feel like we shouldn't tell our children and young adults this information. I am a believer that if you know what you are dealing with, then you are better equipped to handle it and say, 'No. That's not for me,'" Hardy explained to the class. "I want you all to be able to make educated decisions, not ones based on peer pressure or because you didn't know."
Hardy discussed drug paraphernalia with the class - noting, "It is not just drugs themselves that are dangerous - it is also the equipment that is used."
Objects such as needles immediately came to mind for students; however, Hardy said the danger doesn't end there. He pointed out that paraphernalia used to "smoke" various drugs can be harmful too.
Hardy next spoke about common household items used by drug users and makers, such as Sudafed - a medicine which is used to treat congestion. He explained that there is a limit in local stores as to how much Sudafed can be purchased by an individual within a 30-day period to prevent the manufacturing of meth.
"They have to give their driver's license to the pharmacist. The license then is scanned into the system. The system can tell the pharmacist how much the person has bought in the 30-day-period. If you exceed the amount in the system it will lock you out and you won't be able to buy it," Hardy said.
"The alert goes to the police... in particular Officer Chris Luna, one of the assigned agents with the Drug Enforcement Agency. He gets the list every day if so-and-so is over their limit. Sometimes its people just trying to get their medication. Other times it is people trying to make meth and they go from one place to another."
This week students will also learn about DUI and traffic enforcement and gangs. Hardy said each lesson is leading up to two team challenges on Friday.
"They will work a mock crime scene - process the evidence they find - and also there is a team obstacle course. It's not about individual ability."
Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.