The Orange County Public School system is introducing a new pilot program to teach Florida students about work in law enforcement and bridge the gap between police and the community.
The program, called the Junior Police Program, was created by a local community member following the death of George Floyd, and is a partnership between the Orlando Police Department and the school district. The classes are taught by retired law enforcement professionals.
So far, the program has been rolled out at Lake Nona High School and Jones High School. The Junior Law Enforcement Program at Lake Nona High has 200 students participating.
Cliff Long, CEO of the Orlando Regional Realtor, came up with the idea and created the curriculum for the program.
“Any time you want to solve a problem, you turn to education,” Long said.
The curriculum includes in-depth discussions about aspects of law enforcement, field trips, and guest speakers.
Retired officer Darnell Hill teaches one of the classes.
“I worked the street for 25 years and they have questions,” said Hill.
Orlando Police Chief said he hopes the program will inspire students to work in law enforcement. Currently, the department is short 42 officers. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is actively trying to recruit more officers to Florida, which markets itself as a pro-law enforcement state, as part of a new initiative.
But even if students decide not to pursue a career in law enforcement, the program still offers useful knowledge for their future careers and lives.
Hill acknowledged that the class is not police officer training, but rather teaching about how law enforcement works.
“This class Is not about making them become a police officer – judges – or correction. Just exposing them,” said Hill. “If they want to pursue it, they have the knowledge so they can make a good decision.”
Students who commit to the program for four years can graduate with 15 college credits at Valencia College and a dispatcher certification so they can go straight into the work force.