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FLORENCE — Middle school students will learn about police work and crime prevention in demonstrations and hands-on activities with some of their local officers this summer in a week-long “Youth Police Experience.”

“This is going to be fun,” Florence Police Support Services Manager Deanna Husk told PinalCentral.

According to a video on the Police Department’s Facebook page, the program’s mission is “to create a safe and comfortable environment for students to interact with, and learn from, their local police officers.”

The goals are to dissolve communication barriers that may exist; provide a safe environment for learning and interaction; foster healthy mentoring; and educate about law enforcement and crime prevention.

The program will take place at the Florence Community Center and other nearby locations from 8 a.m. to noon June 14-18. Officer Jeff Palmer will visit Florence’s three elementary schools before summer break to introduce the program and invite students to apply, and there will also be an application link on the police web page.

Participants will be chosen by lottery to ensure that all three local elementary schools are equally represented, Husk said. This first session will be a pilot program for 15-20 students. The Police Department may expand the program later for more students and more ages.

According to the video, the “Youth Police Experience” is not a boot camp or a “scared straight” program. It is not intended for children with behavioral issues who may disrupt the group, nor is it a police recruitment program.

A team of at least three police staff will be with the participants at any given time. One staff member will document the activities with videos and photographs to share with participants and their parents.

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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