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Alexandria Youngsters Get Inside Look at Local Law Enforcement

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In Alexandria, Virginia, the Sheriff's Office is broadening its outreach to youngsters by sponsoring the department's first ever Youth Academy.

Deputy Monique Edwards guides 16 children through the detention center on Mill Road, trying to get them to understand exactly what it means to be one of the 500 inmates who are incarcerated here.

Edwards and her boss, Sheriff Dana Lawhorne, insist that the youth academy is NOT designed to scare children "straight." But the tour is a pretty good reminder why they should pursue good grades rather than getting into trouble with the law.

13-year-old James Boseman "got" the message. "It's kind of like a reality check for me," Boseman said.

Sheriff Lawhorne hopes the program will encourage more young people to consider police officers as their friends whose job is to help and protect them.

Youngsters who attend the academy will visit the police firing range, ride in patrol cars and visit a courthouse to observe how public defenders and prosecutors work.

Lawhorne wants the children to experience the same thrill he got when a police officer took him for a "ridealong" when he was 14. That propelled him into a 30-year career in law enforcement. Lawhorne hopes to offer the three-day academy every summer just before schools reopen.

Jonathan Wilson reports...

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