When students enter junior year of high school, it’s time for them to start thinking about their future career and the James City County Police Department is here to help them figure it out.
“We want to make sure students are aware of what they can do now to prepare for a career in law enforcement,” said department spokeswoman Stephanie Williams.
Those outreach programs serve as small recruitment efforts for the department as well. Williams noted there is a shortage of qualified individuals entering police departments across the nation and James City County is working to combat that issue in every way possible.
According to a study from the U.S. Department of Justice, the number of sworn full-time officers has decreased 11 percent since 1997. Williams said the department is always actively recruiting new officers and the program is one of the ways to get students interested in the field.
“We are always looking,” she said. “Law enforcement agencies throughout the country are struggling to fill positions. Any efforts we can make, even if at a younger age, to recruit potential qualified applicants are avenues to reach future potential employees.”
Other early recruitment efforts have proven successful in the past as the department now employs two former interns and has others applying. But, Williams said, it is always good to prepare students even earlier.
While the department already offers the Pathfinders program, which encourages students to participate in activities while learning about careers in law enforcement starting at age 14, Williamsburg-James City County schools approached the department to add something different as a supplemental program for older students, said Eileen Cox, WJCC spokeswoman.
Williams said there wasn’t enough resources to extend the internship program to high school students, so the compromise was to develop a five-week course that covers the basics of the career in both classroom and hands-on activities.
Topics covered in the program will include patrol, crime prevention, marine patrol, investigations and more. There are only 10 seats available in the course in order to keep the class size small and inclusive for students, Williams said.
While the course will not count for school credit, Williams said that it would still benefit students on college applications because it shows they’ve taken an interest in career exploration.
When those students come through the application process for employment with the James City County Police Department, it will also make them stand out.
“It is certainly something that we would take notice of,” Williams said. “Not that we would give them preferential treatment…it’s just someone we know and have interacted with in the past and that’s something we would notice.”
For high school students who go through the program and decide law enforcement is the career for them, they’ll have to wait until they’re 21 years old to join, Williams said. But for some, the wait is worth it.
“Just the other day we had a group of students come in…and one wrote ‘See you when I’m 21!” on the white board,” she said. “And that was just really cool to see.”
Students interested in applying to the program can find an application packet at any of the district’s high school counseling offices. Applications must be submitted no later than April 26.
The program will run from May 7 to June 4 on Tuesdays from 3 to 5 p.m. at the James City County Law Enforcement Center. For more information visit JCCPD online.