BILLINGS — Like many professions, there’s a shortage of police officers with new recruits sometimes difficult to find. That’s why a program called the Junior Police Leadership Academy is so important. It’s a chance for high school students to learn about careers in law enforcement in hopes that it may one day lead to a job.
“It’s basically what we do as law enforcement all wrapped into one week,” said Officer Tim Doll with the Billings Police Department on Wednesday.
Those attending the Junior Police Leadership Academy could be Montana’s next generation of law enforcement or military members.
“This program is developed directly towards enticing students who are interested in law enforcement to continue that process,” said Doll.
The program was perfect for Billings Career Center junior Quinn Weiland who attended last year.
“Eventually I’d like to try to become a martial, ‘cuz I think that’s kind of cool,” said Weiland.
That’s the goal behind the academy, sparking an interest in law enforcement at a time when officers are hard to find.
“You’re talking 20 years ago, right after 9/11 happened, we were seeing 400 to 500 people come out for 4 to 5 spots. Nowadays, they’re seeing 30 to 40 come out for an application process,” Doll said.
Weiland said the training he received at last year’s academy was life-changing.
“After I got out of the police academy, I felt like, we can say clean. I felt like I learned a lot and I kind of felt like a different person,” Weiland said.
He said he’s been able to use the knowledge he learned through the program in his daily life now.
“You learn a lot of stuff that you’re always going to remember, I feel like. Like the tourniquets and all that stuff and kind of helping to deescalate situations. And they make you have a lot of fun doing it too,” said Weiland.
That’s just a snippet of the training these kids go through.
“We cover everything from case law to active shooter situations, to PVOC or driving,” Doll said.
Students partake in crisis intervention training and firearms training, learn defensive tactics and so much more.
“I obviously did pretty well at it ‘cuz I got the defense tactics award,” said Weiland.
The 20-year-old program is entirely free for high school students and applications just opened for this year’s JPLA which is held in Helena in July. Only 30 students across the state will be accepted to partake and you can apply here.
“Me out of JPLA, I learned so much. I made a bunch of new friends that I still talk to, to this day. It’s definitely worth it,” Weiland said.