Students get messy at the Youth Citizens’ Police Academy

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Katrianna Ray

With powders, lifting devices and brushes, this is a complete fingerprinting kit.

It’s not everyday you see high school students laughing while they work, let alone seeing them with black residue streaked across their faces. However, at the Youth Citizens’ Police Academy’s fingerprinting class, this was the case.

This is the 13th year of the Youth Citizens’ Police Academy. Created by its predecessor the Citizen’s Academy, this program is designed to introduce local teens in Meridian Township to the police department.

“It’s for any student who wants to learn more of what police work is about, what kind of jobs we do and to get as many officers involved so they can see the different personalities in real life,” said Police Sgt. Scott Dawson. “We try to improve the relationship between the police and the public. “

From K-9 operations to a firearm training simulator, students will learn about many different aspects of the Police Department in the seven-week course. Each session is two hours, with one hour dedicated to hands-on learning in the classroom.

The first week was an introduction to the course. The officers and the students have a tour of the building, show the lockup and how to photograph mugshots.

Nine students from the Haslett and Okemos high schools participated.

“I liked the walk through, because we got to see somebody brought into the station,” said Evan Kwast, a student from Haslett High School who attended the event both weeks. “Seeing the squad car was also cool.”

The second week was all about Crime Scene Investigations by two CSI officers who gave a rundown of the basic training needed to become a CSI officer, the equipment they used and how to investigate a crime.

The equipment differed  from television crime dramas. The camera used was a basic Nikon on a tripod, while the casting method was very similar to how teeth are cast for braces. The liquid used is actually the same substance that they pour into dental molds, which then will harden into a permanent mold of the various indentions.

“You get to use all the equipment they get to use to try and solve crimes,” said Nick Schaeding.

After a short break, students learned about and were able to dust and lift their own fingerprints. They began by pressing a finger onto the sample glass surface at each station.

Using two different powders for contrast, they would use the different kinds of powders and brushes to make the prints lift off the hidden glass surface. Then, using a hinged tape-like device, the students stuck it to each print and lifted them clean off.

“I didn’t know much about fingerprinting before, and it’s really interesting how the oils stick to the surface,” said Carter Emmons, one of the students who attended. “I thought it was residue that was actually left behind, but it was actually oils.”

The sessions help students learn more about each facet of the police world, which can help spark future careers.

“I like to learn about what the police do actively in our community,” said Graham Logan, who attended the Academy for the first time this past week and wants to join the police force when he is older.

The Youth Citizen’s Academy meets on Wednesday nights from 6:30p.m. to 8:30p.m. until March 27. To register or for any questions, contact Sergeant Scott Dawson at

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