Sarasota teens witness dangers of deputies’ jobs

SARASOTA Fla. (WFLA) – Looking back on 2016, it’s been a rough year for law enforcement, with controversial shootings making headlines.

So, deputies with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office gave a group of teens a look at their jobs with the goal of changing some minds.

Many of these teens admit – before today – their opinion on law enforcement was lacking.

“I sort of saw the police as not somebody I could necessarily rely on,” said teenager Brandon Stewart.

“Hated them, did not trust them, I thought they were pointless and useless,” said student Almuta Hawks.

“I always thought that oh, their job is easy,” said teen Brittany Alling.

But these teens got to get a glimpse of what life is like behind the badge.

Nearly 50 teens participated in the “Rightful Policing Strategy Workshop.” The teens took part in different role-playing scenarios — from dangerous traffic stops, to bar fights, to domestic disputes.

“We all want everybody to like us. You know? But we also understand in today’s day and age right now you know, that there is some unfavorable opinion about law enforcement,” said Captain John Walsh with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.

And these teens admit their eyes are now open.

“The guy had a gun in his lap and I didn’t see it. And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, if I was an actual cop then I could’ve got shot!’,” said Alling.

“I really picked up that not all police officers are bad,” said Stewart.

First and foremost, safety was on everyone’s mind. Back in August, a Punta Gorda woman died at a Citizen’s Academy when an officer accidentally used a real gun.

“We go through great lengths to make sure everybody is safe,” explained Captain Walsh.

Today, only fake weapons were used and every participant was searched. In the end, some teens left with a newfound respect for these everyday heroes.

“They’re not out to get us,” said Hawks.

“They’re not just sitting here trying to hurt people on purpose. There’s just so many bad people out there,” said Alling.

All these kids were specially chosen to take part in this workshop.

They’re leaders in their respective schools and clubs, and the hope is they can take what they learned here and share their experience with others.

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