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Palmetto police teach youth about officer safety, traffic stops during academy

Cpl. Chris Metzger helps Elijah McKenzie, with LightWay Ministries, as he makes a traffic stop and finds a firearm in the vehicle, during Palmetto Police Department's Youth Academy on Friday in Palmetto.
Cpl. Chris Metzger helps Elijah McKenzie, with LightWay Ministries, as he makes a traffic stop and finds a firearm in the vehicle, during Palmetto Police Department's Youth Academy on Friday in Palmetto. gjefferies@bradenton.com

One group of kids from Lightway Ministries in Palmetto has a new appreciation for officer safety and traffic stops.

Elijah McKenzie and Andre Gibson were among those who got a first-hand experience conducting a mock traffic stop during a youth camp Friday.

Police Chief Scott Tyler showed Elijah how to cautiously stand behind a door jam.

Just then Elijah spots a prop knife on the dash board.

“Knife, knife,” Elijah yelled. “Knife, Knife.”

Cpl Chris Metzger asks Elijah what he’s going to do next and then tells him to tell the passenger to put his hands on top of his head.

“Don’t move, sir,” Elijah repeats. “Hands on top of your head.”

Tyler directs Andre to bring the driver out of the car and demonstrates how to do so safely. Next, Elijah watches as Metzger teaches him how to safely take the passenger out of the car, patting him down for weapons and then handcuffing him.

Eight children from Lightway Ministries’ summer camp participated Friday in the second weekly class for the Palmetto Police Department’s youth academy learning about officer safety and tactics.

Students got to wear a tactical vest and officer’s belt while they conducted mock traffic stops. But the four-hour long session began inside a classroom, where Tyler helped the children understand a lot of the reasoning and laws involved in officer safety, traffic stops and contact scenarios with police.

Tyler hoped it would help them understand what police officers do, and why they do it —and how much different it is then what they see on TV.

“People's behavior may tell you whether they are hiding something,” Tyler explained to the class.

He proposed to them a scenario on a hot day like Friday, would they think it was weird if they saw someone walk into a bank in downtown Palmetto wearing a long coat.

“It looks suspicious,” one student shouted.

Tyler asked if they would investigate that.

“They may be armed and trying to rob the bank,” another student quickly shouted.

Tyler went onto to explain the 1968 landmark Supreme Court decision in Terry vs Ohio that said officers could search someone without it violating their Fourth Amendment rights if they had reasonable suspicion that the person was armed and may have committed or was going to commit a crime.

In the classroom, the students were not the only ones engaged. Staff and parents from Lightway Ministries had question for the police also. Tyler and his officers were more than happy to answer.

As the class became more interactive, officers also seemed to be enjoying the class.

Metzger said he was really enjoying participating and would like it see done more with school children.

The academy runs for three weeks total and will conclude next Friday.

Jessica De Leon: 941-745-7049, @JDeLeon1012

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