DaVontae Clemons, 16, hopes to someday be part of a police K-9 unit, training and working with dogs to help apprehend drug traffickers and other criminals.
Thanks to a new law enforcement careers class at Goddard High School, Clemons is getting a much earlier look at what it takes to get there and what the job might be like.
“I know all the hard work I’ll have to go through, but I’m up for the challenge,” said Clemons, a sophomore. During the semester-long “Introduction to Law Enforcement” class, he learned about a cadet program for young people run by the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office, and he signed up for that as well.
“The early exposure … is making me more interested,” he said. “Classes like this are important because not many people know exactly how much law enforcement officers do or all the different kinds of jobs there are.”
The law enforcement career pathway, offered at both high schools in Goddard and some other area districts, is an example of the modern face of career and technical education, educators say.
“It’s not just welding and automotive anymore. The scope has gone well beyond that,” said Doug Bridwell, principal at Goddard High.
“Lots of kids don’t realize the scope of the things law enforcement careers offer. They think ‘police officer,’ and that’s about the extent. But here you see the wide range.”
About 60 students are enrolled at the program at Goddard High and another 45 at Eisenhower High School. Trudi Randolph, an officer with the Goddard school district’s police department, is part of the team teaching the course.
“We let them see and investigate, and they get a little taste of it,” Randolph said. “Then it’s like, ‘Maybe that’s what I want to pursue a little bit more.’ ”
The students hear guest speakers and take field trips, including tours of correctional facilities in Wichita, Hutchinson and El Dorado. During a recent class, Sedgwick County sheriff’s Sgt. Scott Plummer shared stories from his years on patrol and as an undercover narcotics officer.
“One of the best descriptions of my job I’ve ever heard is: hours of work followed by moments of excitement,” Plummer told a class at Goddard High.
“You can drive around all day and not have anything happen – not have a call, not stop a single car. Then you stop a car for something silly like a headlight out, and just like that,” Plummer said as he snapped his fingers.
“You try to stop them, and they’re just gone. They take off, and it kind of catches you off guard for a second, but then the chase is on.”
He told the students they would need a college degree to get promoted but that it doesn’t necessarily have to be in law enforcement or criminal justice. Plummer said his degree is in human resources and development.
He told them to prepare to work weekends and holidays, especially as a rookie. Police work can be stressful, he said, but “everybody who does this job is a little bit of an adrenaline junkie.”
Randolph, the school district police officer, said the class also teaches how to apply and interview for jobs – skills that will help students regardless of which career path they take.
“We talk about integrity and morals, and I tell them this is probably the most important lesson you’re ever going to learn, and it will apply to anything you do,” she said.
Jeanette Hernandez, 17, says she wants to major in criminal justice in college and possibly go to law school. She said she “highly recommended” the law enforcement class to underclassmen, especially ones who, like her, don’t have family members or friends in law enforcement.
“It’s given me a sense of what kinds of jobs are out there,” she said. “It’s like a head start, because you go off to college having more of a focus on what you want to do.”