Instead of watching Netflix, KC kids dust for fingerprints at police academy

If 15-year-old Nora Grantham wasn’t at the Kansas City Police Department Summer Youth Academy this week, she’d be at home binge-watching Netflix.

Instead, Nora is among a group of 40 kids ages 12 through 15 participating in the second session of the academy, which is designed to give them a look at what police, patrol officers, crime scene investigators and detectives do everyday.

On Monday, the participants spent time at the crime lab at 26th Street and Brooklyn Avenue, where they explored a blood-spattered wall, fingerprint dusting and different types of firearms.

Deputy Police Chief Karl Oakman came up with the idea, said Sgt. Joe Bediako with the employment section of the police department.

The program targets youth ages 12-15 from across Kansas City because it’s an impressionable age, he said.

“We can get them involved in dealing with police before any negative experiences or anything happens,” Bediako said.

Brian Humphrey, 13, said he hasn’t had negative experiences with officers.

“I think this will give me a positive perspective of the different police officers and maybe this could be a possible career opportunity for me,” Brian said. “We’ll have to see.”

About 25 kids attended the first session and another 40 are already signed up for round three.

The Police Department advertises the program in school districts. Parents across the city apply for their kids to attend the free program, which includes lunch and a T-shirt. Brian’s mom signed him up.

“She felt like it would be good for me to reach out to the officers, get to know them, and she thought that was a good opportunity for me, so that’s why she signed me up,” said Brian, who’s headed into eighth grade at St. Paul’s Episcopal Day School.

He enjoyed learning about the different firearms and the fingerprint testing, where they used a fingerprint powder to dust for prints and lifted prints off of pop cans with tape.

Nora, a regular viewer of “The Flash” and “Criminal Minds,” said her mom also told her about the academy. Her favorite part so far was the blood splatter room.

One blood splatter, hand prints included, was splashed on white paper hung on the wall.

But the splatter the kids were there to see had to be sprayed with Luminol — a chemical with a blue glow in the dark when it interacts with things like blood — to see it. The stain, made of real blood, covered several feet of wall and floor.

Nora, heading into her sophomore year at Park Hill High School, said the time could influence her career choice. She might be a forensic scientist, but isn’t choosing just yet.

Bediako said he’ll measure the success of the program by officers’ interaction with kids, parents and surveys sent to parents. So far, he said he’s heard positive feedback.

At the end of the last session, several officers played basketball and football with the kids.

“It gives them a chance to see us as people,” Bediako said. “Sometimes people see the uniform, they don’t see the person. It gives them a chance to see who we are.”

Another session will start later this summer. They hope to expand programming that targets youth during the school year.

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