[Nameplate] Mostly Cloudy ~ 93°F  
Feels like: 102°F
Friday, Aug. 26, 2016

Students can learn about law

Sunday, January 8, 2006

Stephen Butcher, law enforcement/police science instructor at Sikeston Career and Technology Center, speaks to his class.
SIKESTON -- Justin Brooks knows he wants to be a police officer some day.

And if the 18-year-old ever had any doubts about his career choice, they all disappeared after participating in only one semester of the Sikeston Career and Technology Center's new law enforcement/police science program.

"I've known since I was 16 that I wanted to be a police officer," said Brooks, a senior at Bloomfield High School who attends SCTC. "It's really the only thing I could see myself doing. I like to help people."

The Sikeston R-6 vocational school began offering for the first time this school year a two-year law enforcement/police science program for high school juniors and seniors.

And so far, students seem to be reaping the benefits of pilot program.

From learning about the history of law enforcement to the different levels of crimes and the amendments, Brooks said his class has also spent the day with the Sikeston Department of Public Safety and made a trip to St. Louis University's School of Anatomy.

"We got to see a decomposed body and the male chest cavity," Brooks said, adding that the experience wasn't as bad as he expected.

Now in the second semester, Brooks said he can't wait to learn more.

The program is offered in three-hour blocks Monday through Friday on the Sikeston High School campus. Currently about 25 students from Sikeston R-6 and eight area sending schools are enrolled in the program, which is divided into afternoon and morning sessions.

"We're one of very few schools in the state offering courses in criminal justice to high school students," said SCTC Director Laura Hendley.

According to Gavin Allan, director of Industrial Education Health Sciences with the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's Career Education, there are very few high school level programs that offer law enforcement exploratory classes. The only other schools that came to mind were North Technical High School in Florissant and South Technical High School in Sunset Hills, he said.

"The reason we chose to do this was anytime we looked in the want ads, we saw a lot of law enforcement/emergency job postings," Hendley said. "We know there's a need in the community and Southeast Missouri area for police officers, dispatchers and other law enforcement officials."

SCTC's sending schools are Scott County Central, Oran R-3, Charleston R-1, Dexter R-11, Bernie R-13, Bell City R-2, Bloomfield R-14 and Richland R-1.

"I expect them to leave with a well-rounded knowledge of the criminal justice system, especially of the Constitution and Missouri statutes," said Butcher.

A former law enforcer -- he worked for Sikeston DPS -- Butcher also has a teaching degree. Now, Butcher said, he has the best of both worlds.

Butcher said he also tries to instill leadership qualities in his students and hopes to give them an understanding of what's expected in a law enforcement career.

"Any emergency service career is held to a higher standard and it's important they understand what those standards are," Butcher said.

The program is based on the Missouri SkillsUSA curriculum. Some of the skills students should master by program's end are understanding the concept of community-based policing and crime prevention, juvenile law, traffic law, case law, criminal investigation, patrol theories, case and trial preparation, report writing, emergency management, probation and parole and defensive tactics.

"Ultimately, all the classwork they have to get to be certified, they will have had here -- except for the physical training," Butcher said. "If they can pass this class, they should be able to pass the certification test."

Students who complete the program will exit with CPR certification, Hendley said. However, they do not receive any "credit" for program completion.

Butcher said he has also encouraged students to take advantage of the Scott County Explorers, a law enforcement program offered by the Scott County Sheriff's Department. Many of the students have already received firearms training through the Explorers, he said.

The program will open avenues for the students, Hendley and Butcher agreed. "It gives them a career awareness of the multiple options available in the law enforcement field," Hendley said.

Because emergency/law enforcement professionals can't be hired until they're 21 years old, the program will help the students with post high school decisions, whether it be entering the work force, joining the military or attending a community college or four-year university, Hendley said.

For example, Brooks said following graduation in May, he plans to get an associate degree at community college and become a police officer.

"Support (of the program) from the city of Sikeston and DPS has been tremendous -- at every level," praised Butcher, adding his co-workers have also been helpful with his new role.

Local highway patrolman and police officers have also offered Butcher their support of the program.

"I'm glad to see they're interested and are hopeful," Butcher said. "We've got a lot of potential."