Young people with an interest in law enforcement have the opportunity of a lifetime coming up, if they act now. The F.B.I. and the Yale Police Department are teaming up again for a week long youth academy this summer.
“Having an inside look in the FBI, which is one of the most prestigious law enforcement agencies in the country, was something that I couldn’t pass up,” said Zach Briggs. Briggs is a high school senior from Stafford Springs. Last summer, he was part of the Future Law Enforcement Youth Academy, or FLEYA, which was started by the Yale Police Chief and an FBI agent a couple years ago.
“A time in our country when we’re going through police reform,” said Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins. “So as opposed to talking about what’s wrong, we talked about how we could engage young people.”
For the last two summers, they took a couple dozen high school students from all across Connecticut and spent a week with them on the Yale campus.
“Kind of like you’re in school, but a school like you’ve never seen before,” is how Briggs described it. “The classes are taught by FBI agents instead of teachers.”
Students sleep in the Yale dorms, and spend the days learning what it’s like to be an officer or an agent, with topics like polygraph testing, drug enforcement, and SWAT tactics. Instructors make it clear that it’s not like cop shows on TV.
“If someone’s interpretation of being in law enforcement is putting handcuffs on people and throwing them in jail, that might not be the best person for the program,” said agent FBI Community Outreach Specialist Charles Grady. “We’re looking for the people who are thinkers. Leaders. Future leaders. People who are really, really concerned with making an impact in a community.”
With two years of success, the FBI is now looking to expand nationwide. First stop is a partnership between the FBI and Marquette in Milwaukee this summer.
“And at some point, we plan on doing some Skype conversations during the class with Milwaukee,” said Grady. “So our students can connect with the students in Milwaukee. More connections the better. The more connections, the better.”
If you’re interested, the Academy is for teens aged 15-18 from all over the state. It is a rigorous admission process, but alums say it’s worth it. Plus, FLEYA is free of charge.