MURRAY — The Novel McReynolds Youth Academy has been a way for the Murray Police Department to engage with young people in the community for many years.
The summer program takes two weeks to walk upcoming fifth, sixth, seventh and eight-grade students through some of the roles police officers play in their community. Featuring two week-long camps, kids who participate engage in a series of activities that familiarize them to many of the components of police work.
“This builds relationships with the children and lets them learn what we do on a day-to-day basis,” said MPD officer and Murray Middle School Resource Officer Patrick Morris.
Sgt. Brant Shutt, public information officer for MPD, said it also gives students the chance to see the other aspects of what their SROs do. This year, there were more than 80 students enrolled in the academy.
“As the SROs … kids see them in the schools all the time,” Shutt said. “Over the years of them being in the schools and building that rapport with the students, to have an opportunity now to see what the other side of their job is like is really great. And it is really great to see these kids get excited about that.”
Shutt said the academy helps students grasp what patrol officers, detectives and even dispatchers do within the community. On top of that, students get to visit the police station and the judicial building as well.
“They kind of get a backstage pass to places you would ordinarily never get to go,” Morris said. “It is showing things and building relationships in the community too, in regard to the legal system.”
Kids get to witness a traffic stop, visit with the K-9 unit, utilize drunk goggles to be made aware of the dangers of drinking and even work a fake crime scene along MPD detectives. Kids this year also got to watch a polygraph examination.
This year also featured a smaller three-day academy for incoming third and fourth grade students, which was completed last week.
“You are here to have fun, eat pizza, learn, have a good time and build some relationships,” Morris said. “We try to build new relationships, and I have seen kids who are in high school now that might not have been friends if they hadn’t met in the youth academy.”