This week’s edition is dedicated to the work of high school students from public schools across West Michigan, who attended SNN’s inaugural journalism camp in July, thanks to a grant from Gannett Foundation.
Middle-schoolers Learn Real-Life Roles of Police at Camp
By Eric Pearson
“Drop the knife! Drop it!” shouts Daniel Nethercott before issuing more commands. The well-known phrases from TV, like “turn around” and “spread your feet” are now coming out of the mouth of a 14-year-old.
After he is satisfied that his drilling partner is in the proper position, Nethercott approaches the “suspect” and handcuffs her. He’s not a law enforcement professional — he’s a camper at the Kent ISD Criminal Justice summer camp, which ran July 11-14.
Campers were trained on tactics to disarm and handcuff a suspect with a knife, or rather, a bright orange rubber blade. They were also taught basics of clearing a building, investigating a crime scene and fingerprinting.
The annual four-day summer camp for seventh- through ninth-graders was designed to provide a taste of what criminal justice is about. The program was led by Kelly Bowers and Gregg Isenhoff, who both have years of law enforcement experience and normally run the criminal justice course.
In a dim room with gray floors and plain white walls, campers wore matching gray T-shirts and sat around the instructor, silent, with blank faces. Once the practice drills began, encouragement flowed out of the instructors and the campers, followed shortly by jokes and laughter.
While a police-themed summer camp may seem more akin to a boot camp than a good time, campers Gabrielle Owens and Vanessa Kooistra described the camp as “fun” and said they enjoyed lessons on how to handle a gun properly.
The “gun” was actually a blue plastic dummy model, which the campers and instructors carried on their hip the entire day, diligently practicing safe procedures.
The camp’s combination of fun and discipline may be the result of the personalities of the instructors. Gabrielle Owens said her instructors were “very goofy, but they can be serious also.”
Beside jokes and instruction, the teachers tried to instill confidence in the students. Isenhoff said things like, “You are in control!” to those who were having trouble raising their voices to issue the mock commands in drills.
Bowers described a “success story” of a girl that came out of her shell after a year of his course, which is what the summer camp gave the kids a taste of. He described a girl who after a year in the course “carried herself upright,” whereas before “she always had her head down.”
“She had a confidence about her that she didn’t have when she first came in,” he added.
This was also the case for campers such as Daniel, who learned to shout out commands, “Lace your fingers behind your back!” he shouted.
CSI Middle School: Students Examine ‘Murder’ Like Detectives
By Kennedy Purcey
Middle-schoolers investigated the crime scene. Bullets and drugs were scattered on the floor, furniture was flipped over, and a dead body lie in fake blood. The kids analyzed the “studio apartment” and came up with theories.
It was a typical day of Cops and Robbers summer camp at Kent Career Technical Center.
Fifteen campers spent their days with real police officers learning how to investigate a crime scene, hold a gun, and what commands to say to armed criminals. They also learned about the “fatal funnel,” which are building-clearing operations where protection is limited and can minimize the officers’ combat tactics.
“I saw that fire and passion when you’re showing them what you did, and it brings you back when you had that same passion,” said instructor Gregg Isenhoff about teaching the campers.
The middle-schoolers who sacrificed four days of their summer vacation learned new things about the career they were eager about. Isenhoff and his partner, Kelly Bowers, also taught them verbal commands and the correct way to hold a gun.
“You shoot as many times until you feel you’re not in danger any longer,” camper Clare Bieniewicz said about shooting a gun.
Campers Lift Fingerprints, Analyze Blood Spatter
By KimVy Nguyen
What do fingerprints and lint have in common? Both can be lifted with duct tape.
Just beyond neck-deep immersion within the Kent Career Technical Center, one can expect to come across the Cops and Robbers Criminal Justice Camp targeted toward middle-school students throughout Kent County.
Led by Gregg Isenhoff and Kelly Bowers, students experience the ins and outs of crime-scene investigation and police tactics. Whether learning how to survey a crime scene, the chronology of an arrest, or how to analyze blood spatter, campers build a camaraderie with peers who share similar interests.
Two of those were eighth-graders Claire Bienewicz and Taylor Kenyon.
“I’ve wanted to be a cop since I was in first grade, so pretty much eight years,” Claire said.
The girls expressed their drive to help the greater good. Taylor said her passion for protecting others has only grown from participating in Cops and Robbers.
“I watched videos on YouTube and Netflix all the time, and just really liked the things they used and stuff – like the tasers and car chases,” Claire said.
“Today we’re learning how to lift fingerprints,” said Taylor. The classroom buzzed with campers’ excitement as Isenhoff exhibited how to dust prints with iron shavings and lift the pattern with duct tape.
He said this is not the exact method a police department uses when retrieving fingerprints, but it is the most home-friendly way of doing it.
“I think this would be good for a break-in, or maybe a homicide.” Taylor said.
Middle-schoolers Become Crime-scene Investigators
By Megan Goetcheus
Crime-scene investigations, fingerprinting and gun safety are things that don’t usually come to mind when someone says “summer camp,” but for 15 middle-schoolers who chose “Cops and Robbers” camp at Kent Career Technical Center, that’s what their week was about.
From July 11 to 14, campers did everything from learning handgun safety to identifying fake blood spatter. They even toured the Grand Rapids Police Department.
The camp was run by tech center criminal justice teachers Kelly Bowers and Gregg Isenhoff. Campers learned to make strong verbal commands and disarm and handcuff suspects, all on the first day. When demonstrating how to handcuff, Isenhoff reminded campers they are always in control. “Don’t rush into your own death,” he said.
Added Bowers: “At the very end of the day we do scenarios where the students have to come in and they have to walk through a scenario with role players, and they have to exercise what they just learned.”
Some activities were police-work based, while others were CSI-focused. Kaden Koets, a seventh-grader at Grand Rapids Public Museum School, said he wants to become a police officer. “I just want to protect people and stuff,” he said. The coolest part about camp for Koets was getting to have a fake plastic gun and holster around his waist for the day, he said.
Another focus was forensics, and that’s why Andrew Kartson, an incoming eighth-grader at Forest Hills Eastern High School, was there. Fingerprinting and DNA swipes, that’s what holds his interest.
“I took an eighth-grade science class last year,” he said, “and next year I am taking biology forensics.” Which, at Eastern High, is a 10th-grade class.
Campers also learned to identify different types of blood spatter. One activity put them in a classroom-turned-studio apartment where a crime had occurred. It was their job to observe the scene and determine what happened. All campers had their own theories.
“If you get shot and blood comes out, you can tell by droplets or you can tell by spatter, pretty much what had happened,” Bowers said, talking about how the students could identify the crime.
It was an eventful week at camp, where fake blood and fake guns could equal a real impact.
“By exposing the students, they’re saying, ‘Oh my gosh I didn’t know (police) did this, I love it.’ That’s what I want to do,’” Bowers explained. “Now, they have a track in school and they know what to work toward.”
Camp Introduces Students to Real-Life Police Work
By Summer Brown
Usually, seventh-graders and fake weapons don’t mix. But Kent Career Technical Center’s Criminal Justice Summer Camp proved that statement wrong.
For four days in July, a group of middle-schoolers sacrificed a bit of their summer vacation to attend camp. Campers were given fake firearms and learned about different situations. Camp leaders taught students the importance of a police officer’s public image, use of force, decision making and safety. Campers received hands-on experience in crime-scene processing and building searches, and got the chance to work together on situational tactics and procedures.
Gregg Isenhoff, instructor along with Kelly Bowers, said middle school is a great age for the students to get a better perspective beyond the good cop/bad cop image police are given.
“I want them to take away that there’s more than what you see on TV,” he said.
Isenhoff said he wants campers to get the most out of camp, and go in with an open mind. “Go in with no real expectations,” he said.
As for the campers, their interest in criminal justice was enhanced through activities they participated in.
For Claire Bieniewicz, it was the opportunity to begin pursuing a dream she’s had since the first grade.
“I hope to be a cop, I really want to be a cop,” she said.