OKMULGEE, Oklahoma – If you ask the average person if they remember what they wanted to be when they grew up, chances are they are happy to share those long-forgotten childhood dreams. Common answers involve healthcare, education, and law enforcement. To make those dreams possible for the next generation, Muscogee (Creek) Nation Lighthorse Police is set to launch its new Youth Police Academy March 13-17.
Through this new program, students ages 11-15 will learn about tribal law enforcement operations through a K-9 demo, patrol techniques, traffic stops, and firearm safety. This can range in positions like patrol, investigations, community outreach, or the dive team. While similar to the Summer Safety series, this has a different focus for those wanting to join the force.
The program also includes mentorship. It will provide classes on topics like bullying and internet safety.
Lighthorse Deputy Chief of Special Operations Daniel Wind III said the academy aims to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community. If the community does not trust its public servants, it can create a negative image.
“We want them to see we are there to help them, to be someone they can trust,” Wind said. “Through this academy, by letting them come in, they can see that we’re not the boogeyman.”
This program will teach what it takes to serve on the force and what it takes to serve as a law enforcement officer in a tribal community.
“How you show respect to our elders, how to show respect if you’re at a ceremonial ground or one of our traditional churches,” Wind said.
Students will be taken across the reservation from the College of Muscogee Nation to the Broken Arrow Police Academy. They will also spend a night in Oklahoma City to meet federal partners and tour the Oklahoma City National Memorial.
Students in the program will receive a T-shirt, a polo shirt, a backpack, and a ball cap. Participants who complete the academy will participate in a graduation ceremony at the end of the program.
Due to funding from a grant, the program is free of charge for participants. It is open to anyone who lives within the MCN reservation, including non-citizens. Although the upcoming academy’s 30 slots have already been filled, there is a waiting list.
These programs are vital in preparing the next generation for the workforce. Some of the students Wind has mentored through these programs in years past he now calls colleagues.
“I have enjoyed watching some of the kids I work with grow up and become very productive citizens,” Wind said. “I am proud to say that I have seen many of our students become police officers in our department now.”
According to a 2021 study, adult respondents ranked the position of a police officer as number ten on a list of the top twenty dream jobs they wanted to be when they grew up. Through the Youth Police Academy, students will learn about different opportunities in law enforcement and gauge whether it is the right career path for them.
Wind said that while the department has yet to set a date for the next Youth Police Academy, they are tentatively looking at scheduling the next one for summer. For more information, contact Malissa Beaver at email@example.com.