Christopher Plunkett grew up hearing ‘never trust the cops.'
Raised in a rough neighborhood in The Village, Plunkett, 17, said he has seen his fair share of crime. He decided to apply to this summer's Oklahoma City Student Police Academy so he could learn about law enforcement from an inside perspective.
“I've always been around bad things, gangs,” Plunkett said. “I've always been around that area, and I wanted to try and be something more than what was given to me as a kid, and this just sounded like a great opportunity to do that.”
Plunkett is one of 24 teens participating in the Oklahoma City Police Department's weeklong Student Police Academy.
The program gives area students ages 15 to 18 a behind-the-scenes look at law enforcement.
Teens are selected based on recommendations from teachers, coaches and community leaders.
With almost 60 applicants, this week's camp generated the most interest since it began five years ago, said Sgt. Tomas Daugherty.
Students hear from guest speakers on the police force, tour investigation labs and examine a simulated crime scene.
“It's not what you think it is,” Plunkett said. “I thought it was going to be a bunch of lectures, but it's very hands-on. I didn't expect that.”
They also visit the shooting range and watch demonstrations from the canine unit, the bomb squad, the airborne unit and the SWAT team.
“We pull out all the stops,” Daugherty said. “They get something they'll never forget.”
Plunkett said he especially enjoyed learning about driving pursuit tactics from the back seat of a squad car.
“The way they drive, it's crazy,” he said. “They do their maneuvers in like half-seconds.”
Bailey Harder, 15, couldn't get enough of the canine unit and meeting Titan, a 5-year-old German shepherd trained to find bombs.
“I don't think Gabby, my basset hound at home, would do that,” Harder said as she watched Titan sprint through tunnels and leap over fences on an obstacle course.
Harder and the rest of her classmates call themselves “Class Five,” representing the program's fifth year.
To Harder, it's “the best of the best class.”
“It's obvious everyone is really interested in what we're learning,” she said. “It's not like they just came to do something over the summer.”