WARNER ROBINS — Assignments in Bobby Brown’s criminal justice class at Middle Georgia Technical College class go beyond problem sets and book reports.
About 40 dual enrollment high school students in Houston County have been participating in ride-alongs with police officers with the Warner Robins and Perry police departments, observing the officers in action while on patrol duty.
Brown has been working with Capt. Chris Rooks of the Warner Robins Police Department and Chief George Potter with the Perry Police Department since last year.
Brown said he promotes a hands-on approach to learning in his class, which covers various aspects of the criminal justice system.
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“They really get an idea of how things are out in the field of criminal justice and ... not just me lecturing,” Brown said. “They get to see this stuff on a daily basis.”
During the ride-alongs, students are expected to observe officers, record information about police interactions and submit summaries of their ride-along experiences in order to reinforce theories introduced in the classroom.
“You can’t always understand what it’s like ... in the classroom. In riding with a police officer, you get first-hand perspective from them,” Rooks said.
Students must submit permission slips before participating on the ride-alongs, and parents are allowed to go on the ride-alongs with their children if they choose. This year, three parents have done so.
“They found it to be really rewarding experience to understand what police officers are dealing with on a day-to-day basis,” Brown said.
The students must remain in the police cars at all times during the ride-alongs, Brown said. If students aren’t given permission to participate in the ride-alongs, Brown said, they watch episodes of “Cops” to observe police in action.
Most of the cases students get to witness are traffic violations and domestic disputes, Brown said.
Taylor Kelly, a senior at the Houston County Career and Technology Center, participated in a ride-along Monday with a patrol unit of the Warner Robins Police Department.
During the ride-along, Kelly said he witnessed traffic stops, speeding tickets being issued and learned about what the officers do and the equipment they use during their shifts.
“It was pretty crazy what those cops go through,” Kelly, 18, said.
Eventually, Kelly wants to become a criminal investigator.
“I enjoy solving cases and doing that stuff,” he said. “(The class) broadens the range of what you want to do.”
Samantha Holloway, a sophomore from Warner Robins High School, witnessed parts of an afternoon and night shift Tuesday with the Warner Robins Police Department. During her ride-along, Holloway, 16, went to the scene of a minor traffic accident in front of Warner Robins High and learned about misdemeanors, felonies and working a police beat.
“It’s really exciting what they have to do and what they have to go through,” she said.
To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 256-9751.