Most teens have never cut open a vehicle using the jaws of life or have seen a police K9 in action, although the 13 participants in this year’s Teen Safety Academy recently saw firsthand the inner workings of Federal Way’s police and fire departments.
The annual Teen Safety Academy, a partnership program between Federal Way Police Department and South King Fire and Rescue, is in its third year of creating positive interactions.
“There needs to be more opportunities … for kids to get to see officers in a different light and officers to get to see kids in a different light,” said Lindsey Sperry, crime analyst for the Federal Way Police Department.
Sperry spearheaded the academy for kids in 2016 after a presentation at a local high school proved students needed a more complete perspective of law enforcement officers and first responders in their own city, she said.
“There’s just so much perception versus reality that goes on,” Sperry said of how society, and even kids, may view the police force.
The television and media versions of police often paint all departments with one brush, she said.
“It’s important for them to see who are the people in that role in their community and ‘what does the Federal Way Police Department do?’” she said. “And for them to see that officers are just human beings, too.”
Middle and high school ages are the main focus because it’s difficult for those in positions of authority to make connections with youth of these particular age groups, Sperry said.
“The interactions that typically they start having with officers at those ages are all negative almost,” Sperry said. The proactive, positive interactions can make all the difference when intervened at the right time.
The two-day course held June 24-25 designated one day to exploring the police station and one day to scouting the fire service.
On day one, the kids explored the ins and outs of Federal Way’s police station: learning about fingerprinting processes from Officer VanderVeer, meeting Federal Way’s police K9, Vader, seeing the power of a taser demonstration from Officer Skinner, and attempting to walk a course while wearing drunk goggles to understand the severity of driving under the influence.
At the end of the day, each youth earned a Positive Ticket with a pass to Wild Waves Theme Park.
On day two, South King Fire and Rescue opened the doors of the station to give the kids hands-on experience of life-saving efforts.
Youth helped cut open a vehicle to rescue trapped victims, practiced using a fire extinguisher to put out a flammable liquid fire, and sprayed water using a fire hose while experiencing different nozzle pressures and reactions using different stream patterns.
The SKFR crew from station 64 showed how to operate an aerial apparatus and showcased some of the equipment carried on Ladder 64. During emergency incidents, sometimes firefighters have to force entry into structures. Again, the crew on Ladder 64 demonstrated the tools and techniques they utilize to make rapid entry when seconds matter.
“All of these skill sets are ones firefighters consistently train on because these skills are some of the most crucial skills needed when lives are in danger,” said Lt. Brad Chaney, SKFR public information officer. “The program … gave the teens an appreciation for the work that both the Federal Way Police Department and South King Fire and Rescue do on a regular basis.”
This safety opportunity for youth is funded through the Justice Assistance Grant program.
“Our goal and hope would be to get the class up to 30-ish kids, so we work on that every year,” Sperry said.
Along with providing safety knowledge, the program also gives insight to future career opportunities, Sperry said.
“You don’t have to be an officer, you don’t have to be a firefighter,” she said. “You can still work in the realm of public safety … it expands their knowledge of the community they live in and the people who are serving the community that they live in.”
For more information on the Teen Safety Academy, visit cityoffederalway.com/police under the Quick Links.