Junior Deputy Academy returns to Chilton County

Published 2:34 pm Friday, July 5, 2024

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By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor

The Junior Deputy Academy in Chilton County made its return last month after a hiatus to a large number of students eager to see what the various law enforcement careers in the area entail.

The popular outreach program went away for a few years, and after the COVID-19 pandemic, found it tough to gain traction again in the community. However, the student resource officers in schools around Chilton County came together to get the event back on its feet in 2024.

“We started at the beginning of the last school year trying to plan and to get people in place this year because we knew we were going to have it,” school resource officer Judd Etheredge said.

The goal was to have the academy last year, but the plans did not formulate in time. This year they did, and 35 students came out to participate. The academy was held for students ages nine to 15, and it had over 40 different officers and law enforcement personnel participate. Among those in attendance included dispatch communications, jail staff, patrol divisions, K9 divisions, SWAT and more. The academy did some drills and formations to give the students a taste of some things they may see in a police academy, and what officers do every day.

Etheredge said the junior deputy academy can be one of the biggest outreaches into the community that law enforcement can do by the way it impacts hundreds of students inside the Chilton County schools.

“We wanted to give them the opportunity to meet the wide range of deputies and officers that are in these communities, so when they are out in public … They feel more comfortable to communicate with law enforcement personnel,” Etheredge said. “Should they have a need or an emergency, they may be less hesitant to communicate that with those folks.”

Demonstrations from divisions were a part of the academy as well, and the Emergency Management Agency showcased their drone team with their impressive technology among others. Etheredge said the group of students at the academy were more on the younger end, but there were a handful of freshmen in high school who attended as well, giving the group a wide range.

“(The academy) was really trying to give them a look at things if they were to think about a law enforcement career,” Etheredge said.

Etheredge hopes to have even more participation across the Chilton County municipalities for next year’s academy. Officers are already talking about how they can expand the academy for next year, including collaborating with the fire departments and first responders in the community since all three of the careers work so closely together often.