McKINNEY (June 25, 2015) — Officer Herrin of the McKinney Police Department SWAT team lifts his rifle, aims carefully at the target down range and squeezes off a burst of automatic gunfire that is as thrilling as it is jarring to the 22 McKinney ISD middle and high school students watching from a safe distance behind him.

While many of their peers are soaking up the leisurely days of summer, these kids are getting an inside look at all things law enforcement through the weeklong Teen Academy hosted by the McKinney Police Department. Some are there because they are considering law enforcement as a career. Others are just curious. They’re halfway through the week, and this morning, it’s all about the SWAT team.

Herrin secures his weapon and turns back toward the audience. “It looks cool, and it sounds cool,” he explains, “but it’s not always practical.”

They’ve already seen the more practical side of SWAT weapons deployment through tactical rifle and sniper rifle demonstrations. In the hour to come, they will tackle the SWAT team’s obstacle course, experience the concussive punch of a “flash-bang” grenade and take part in a competition that combines the joys of Airsoft target shooting with team tire-flipping. It’s blazing hot, but everyone is having too much fun to care about that.

“The kids did a wonderful job,” says Herrin. “We love seeing teamwork and team building events because it builds camaraderie, and that can be used in all different aspects of life. We use it, obviously, on the SWAT team. It’s a close-knit group of guys, and we rely on each other, and we’re trying to teach these kids the same thing – to be dependent on one another, do your job and know that your buddy is going to do his and that you can accomplish a whole lot of other things in life if you’re working together.

That sentiment is put to work on the obstacle course as SWAT officers urge students to help each other over, under and through the obstacles. When participants finally clamber over the top of the final 10-foot wall, the sense of accomplishment is evident on each of their faces.

Cockrill 7th grader Andrew O’Grady is the first volunteer to take on the course, and he finds it to be more challenging than the officers make it look. “I can’t believe they can do all that stuff,” Andrew says. “They can climb a rope and make it look easy. Then, when you try it, you can’t even get up off the ground.”

But, while getting over the obstacles is tough, Andrew is undaunted in his willingness to help others. “The officers really emphasized teamwork, and then they tried to teach us how to do a team lift, and I did a lot of the team lifts. I was pretty good at those.”

McKinney Boyd High School 9th grader Miles Garrison concurs. “It’s way more stressful than it looks. They make it look easy. And, then you’re climbing up this rope, your chest is hurting, your legs are just trying to hold on for dear life. Teamwork was really important. I think I would have been stuck on half the obstacles. If I hadn’t had somebody to lift me up, I would have failed.”

And, that gets to the heart of the Teen Academy.

“The whole purpose of this academy is to take some of the good kids that are in our schools and make them better over the summer,” says Sergeant Dave Rodriguez, who supervises the McKinney Police Department School Resource Officers. “Hopefully, they’ll take away some leadership attributes from our academy and put those to work in our campuses.”

Not every student who applies is chosen for the academy. “For the selection process, they had to fill out a complete application, and anything that wasn’t completed was rejected. They had to make sure they had positive references from their school and of course signatures and authorization from their parents,” says Rodriguez.

The academy is run primarily by the SROs, but a lot of help comes from MISD high school students who participate in the Law Enforcement Explorer Clubs – and from other McKinney officers.

“We couldn’t do it without the help of people from our Criminal Investigations Division, our Crime Scene Investigators, other various divisions within the department – SWAT, the motorcycle guys. So, we’ve got a lot of support throughout the department for this program,” says Rodriguez.

Students interact with those officers throughout the week, learning about everything from handcuffing techniques to 911 communications to K-9 training to felony traffic stop procedures. The week wraps up with students in tactical gear armed with Airsoft guns putting their knowledge to work in active scenarios.

“There is huge interest in this program,” says Rodriguez. “It’s a free program, and the reason it ended up being free was because we had so much support from all of our PTOs, our PTAs, our McKinney Police Association and our Fraternal Order of Police Association. They all donated money toward the purchase of Airsoft equipment and all the safety gear that goes with the Airsoft products. They also helped purchase t-shirts and refreshments at the end of the week for a small graduation ceremony that we’re going to hold.”

It’s all about preparing the next generation of leaders and future law enforcement officers – which is a truly worthwhile endeavor.

And one that is always practical.

For additional information on McKinney ISD, contact Shane Mauldin, MISD Communications Coordinator, at 469-302-4007 or smauldin@mckinneyisd.net.

 

About McKinney ISD

One of the fastest growing school districts in Texas, the McKinney Independent School District currently enrolls more than 24,750 students in 20 elementary schools, five middle schools, three high schools, four alternative schools and one early childhood education school. The mission of McKinney ISD, the champion for progressive learning throughout the diverse McKinney community, is to inspire and equip all students to explore, develop and express their unique potential as innovators, critical thinkers and collaborators through challenging, engaging and diverse learning experiences in vital partnership with the community. Visit the district's website at mckinneyisd.net.