Before this year, the Federal Way Police Department didn’t have a mentorship program.
It all started when one Washington State University student called the department asking about any internship opportunities. Megan Schafer, going into her senior year at WSU, wanted to spend her summer learning more about law enforcement, so she called around to different police departments looking for an internship.
She couldn’t find one, though, so she helped Federal Way make one.
After speaking with FWPD’s Lisa Sjoden and Lieutenant Raymond Bunk, they decided to create a mentorship program for students like Schafer who wanted to get firsthand experience with law enforcement careers.
Bunk said this program is geared towards high school and college students and will be a summer program, allowing the students to get their hands into what working for a department like FWPD would be like.
During her summer with FWPD, Schafer spent time working around all the different aspects of the police department including with Valley Communications, where 911 calls in this area are received and dispatched.
From May to July Schafer spent her free time at the department, helping out and learning as much as she could.
“I would come in on my days off,” she laughed.
Schafer said she enjoyed everything she got to participate in with FWPD, with her favorite activities being working in evidence and with Sjoden, who handles the department’s accreditation.
Bunk said Sjoden ensures everything in the department is meeting the national Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) standards.
“I like seeing how all different parts come together to make one functioning department,” she said.
She enjoyed her time so much she asked if she can keep coming back to help out before she turns 21 and can officially apply for a job with the department.
Bunk joked that this program was Schafer’s unofficial job application.
“This was like her pre-employment screening and she didn’t even know,” Bunk said.
Schafer is the only one in her family interested in law enforcement, so she didn’t know what to expect when she began this program.
She’s loved every second of it, though.
“I’m extremely satisfied with everything I’ve learned,” she said. “It was an incredible learning experience for me.”
Schafer’s career goal is to be a criminal profiler, and to do that you have to start off as a police officer.
“I need the experience … and if I liked being a police officer I wouldn’t mind staying on either.”
Her interest in this field started when she was young, after learning the Green River killer lived in this area.
“I started researching all the different aspects of the criminal justice field,” she said, and she loved the work.
She encourages anyone who is interested to apply for the program for next summer.
“They are really nice and friendly. They helped explain everything in detail,” she said.
Bunk said Schafer went through everything an actual job candidate would go through, minus the medical and psychological evaluation. In order to be accepted for the program, candidates have to go through a background check and application process similar to what they would do for an actual job candidate.
Any students who applies, college or high school, would undergo a thorough background and reference check. Bunk said the reason for this is to ensure students are keeping their grades up and there aren’t any recent behavioral issues on record.
Students will also go through a polygraph test to ensure they are honest and trustworthy.
“It’s just another screening tool that we have … as a volunteer, [Schafer] saw a lot of things that are … private, some of the applicants that have come here, other things that aren’t made public,” Bunk said. “We have to know that she is trustworthy and Megan did a great job.”
Schafer was especially nervous for her polygraph test because she was sick at the time, and during the test you aren’t allowed to move.
“I was coughing and moving, so I was afraid I would mess it up,” she laughed. “But they just ask you yes and no questions … they just basically go through everything you might have done in your life and they pick out certain questions.”
Bunk said they are hoping to expand this program next year and take on more students, since this year the program got a late beginning for the local high schools.
The department also hopes to use it to reach out to the youth in the community and improve department exposure and relationships.
“For us, it’s important to have community involvement, invite people in to see what we’re doing,” Bunk said. “Nothing we’re doing here we shouldn’t be transparent about, especially with youth.”
For more information about the Federal Way Police Department’s mentorship program, contact the police department at 253-835-6700.