Holden Combs, 11, of Milford Center dusts work boots for fingerprints at a hypothetical crime scene set up behind the Madison County Sheriffs Offices Elm Street station in London. The scenario presented to Combs and his fellow Junior Deputy Academy squadmates involved an argument between two men at a bar, one of whom was later found dead on a nearby farm. The junior deputies examined thecrime scene, documented their observations, and collected evidence.
Christopher Wilhoit, 11, of London secures the perimeter of a hypothetical hit-and-run crime scene. His job was to keep pushy on-lookers from crossing the tape and contaminating the crime scene.
Jessie Minner, 10, of London, and Alysen Workman, 11, a student at Canaan Middle School in Plain City, tag and bag evidence at the scene of a suspected hit-and-run.
Ashleigh Pollack, a team leader, takes photos at a "crime scene."
Deputy Jack Dill fills in a squad of junior deputies on a simulated crime scene.
They reviewed case studies with the county coroner, worked with a bomb-sniffing dog, made traffic stops, investigated crime scenes, and ultimately presented cases to the county prosecutor.
One might think thethey in this scenario are law enforcement officers. One would be almost right. In fact,they were 100 fifth- through seventh-graders taking part in the Madison County Sheriffs Office Junior Deputy Academy.
First presented two years ago as a one-week camp, the Sheriffs Office expanded the camp this second time around, offering two one-week camps to accommodate more applicants. Still, there was a waiting list.
“Interested students had to write an essay on why they wanted to do the Academy. They needed a teachers recommendation, and they needed to agree to a code of conduct, said Dr. Lieut. Teena Gallagher, who organized the program with deputies Anna Bingman, Roberta Braithwaite and Jack Dill.
A grant from the Ohio Detention of Youth Services, administered locally by Madison County Juvenile/Probate Court Judge Glenn S. Hamilton, funds the program. Each participant pays a $45 camp fee, which covers a uniform (t-shirt and hat), crime scene tool kit and other materials.
The camps objectives are multi-faceted.
“We have kids who are interested in jobs in law enforcement or who want to be forensic scientists or lawyers or physicians. The Academy gives them a taste of what its like and what possibilities are out there, Gallagher said.
The camp also serves as the perfect atmosphere for teaching personal safety skills, like how to make a 9-1-1 call, knowing to treat all guns as if they were loaded, and how to avoid dangerous situations by making smart decisions and choosing friends wisely.
“And, if nothing more, the Academy gives the kids a little more respect for what we do as deputies, Gallagher said.
Organizers make each camp component as true-to-life as possible for the participants, including the crime scene investigation unit, which takes place the second to last day of each camp week. They set up six different scenes behind the sheriffs Elm Street station in London and assign one squad of junior deputies to investigate each scene.
For many of the Academy participants, like Caitlin Gookin, 10, of West Jefferson, this is their favorite part of camp.
“I wanted to learn about CSI and the K-9 unit, she said, as she dusted for fingerprints at the hypothetical scene of a suspected suicide.
Each squad has a person to secure the scene, a person to record who enters and leaves the scene during the investigation, a forensics scientist, a sketch artist, a photographer and evidence collectors.
Jessie Minner, 10, of London and Alysen Workman, 11, of the Plain City area, tagged and bagged evidence at the scene of a suspected hit-and-run. Items of interest, they said, included beer caps, a movie ticket stub and a purple straw.
After the investigations, each squad puts together a case to present to Madison County Prosecutor Steve Pronai on the last day of the Academy. He decides whether or not each squad has sufficient evidence to send their respective cases to the grand jury. If they dont, he tells them what more they need to do.
It is all pretty real for the 10- to 13-year-old junior deputies. It stays pretty real right through a graduation ceremony at which the Ohio Attorney General presides. The backdrop is the Ohio Peace Officers Memorial at the Peace Officers Training Academy in London. The building next door? The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.
Junior Deputy Academy Award Winners