Herndon traffic motor officer Eddie Stapleton shows teens how to use a lidar during the Herndon Police Youth Academy on Friday.
Photo by Reena Singh.
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Carlos Zelaya, 14, held the Lidar, a binocular-style radar gun, up to his eyes, aimed for the front of passing cars, and captured their speed - and whether the cars were speeding.
Zelaya, Herndon resident, was one of the 13 students in this year’s Herndon Police Youth Academy, which taught students the everyday life of local cops last week.
He loved seeing what the law was like from the officers’ point of view.
“I wanted to learn more about being a police officer,” he said. “I don’t see why people resist cops.”
The students got to sit in the front seat of a police car, learn about crime scene investigation, see a real court case and meet some of the police dogs who also report for duty at the station.
Some of the more hands-on activities included taking a polygraph test and test the DIU Convincer to understand how a few drinks can lead to serious vision impairment.
“I got to experience things they get to experience every day,” said 14-year-old Allison Lane, Sterling. “I got hooked up to the polygraph. It was really stressful. I don’t know if I would pass it even if I was telling the truth.”
Herndon Police Department Senior Officer Denise Randles was the head of this year’s program.
“I thought this year was successful,” she said. “We got great feedback from the students. Hopefully they got a good sense of what it takes to be in law enforcement, what it takes to be a good citizen and be respectful to others.”
She treated the teens to pizza and soda after they received their completion certificates, then showed a slideshow to parents so they could see what their children learned throughout the week. Randles quizzed the parents on the police-themed music, some of which, like “Bad Boys” by Inner Circle, she exclaimed the teens never heard before.
Dejauna Black, 14, of Herndon, joined the summer program because she wanted to learn more about law enforcement. What she found out surprised her.
“They don’t just catch bad guys,” she said. “They’re not mean people.”
She said she liked learning about gangs and how the polygraph machine detects a lie.
“It detects your sweat glands,” she said.
By the end of the program, some of the teens even had aspirations to become an officer.
“I actually really liked it,” said 13-year-old Nikola Dragacevac, of McLean. “I think law enforcement would be fun when I’m older.”