Sixth graders serve as police chiefs for a day

Photo by Valerie Shelton – Police chiefs for the day dressed in sanitized suits, caps and gloves, ready to dust for fingerprints. The CSI lab was led by Sergeant Lonnie Amerjan.

By Valerie Shelton, Editor

A group of sixth graders took charge of the police department on Tuesday, May 31, acting as police chiefs for the day.

As chiefs, students from schools throughout the Clovis Unified School District, toured the department’s facilities, observed demonstrations by SWAT and the EOD bomb squad, conducted their own crime scene investigation and had lunch with Clovis Police Chief Matt Basgall.

Sergeant Lonnie Amerjan, who ran the sixth graders through the crime lab, showing them how to identify fingerprints and collect evidence without contaminating it, said the young men and women were selected to serve as chiefs for writing winning essays on the topic “What would you do if you were chief for the day?” Amerjan normally reads each essay—between 600 and 1,000 essays—to choose a winner from each participating school. This year he said he had a little help from staff but still had the chance to read the top essays, and he was very impressed with the ideas the students presented.

“What we find is that young people, even sixth graders, come up with very good ideas and we’ve used some of their ideas, especially the app or social media related ideas,” Amerjan said. “They are incredible. Today, they will take those ideas and share them with each other when they go to lunch with the chief and he will have them read their essays to each other, not as a competition but just so the other kids can see what they wrote and a lot of times they will compare.”

Alexis Cinfel, a student at Bud Rank Elementary, was one of the police chiefs for the day. In her essay, Cinfel wrote that she would reduce speeding in her neighborhood by having a speed bump installed.

“I live on the corner in my neighborhood and usually people just speed when my brothers and I are outside playing so I thought that maybe we could put some speed bumps right there so they would slow down,” Cinfel said.

Cinfel’s favorite part of being police chief for the day was meeting the chief of police and riding in a police car. Though she doesn’t plan on pursuing a career in law enforcement, she said the experience was interesting and fun.

“I was really excited [to win the essay contest] because no one in my family is a police officer so I’ve never really done anything like this before,” Cinfel said. “I am interested in it but I’m more interested in being an orthopedic surgeon when I get older.”

This year there were 13 winners, although a couple could not come to the May 31 event because of testing. Amerjan hopes that more schools will participate in the future.

“This year we had 13 schools participate and that is not all of the Clovis Unified School District elementary schools, but we’re trying to expand it every year,” Amerjan said. “We started with just my sector, which used to be the old B3 sector and there were nine schools in that and then it expanded to include some of the north district schools. We’re trying to improve the program, it is just huge to accommodate that many students so we’re thinking of dividing it up into portions so we can do the north side and the south side of Clovis.

“It is an excellent event and they bring the information back to their schools. Every year we get more and more participation and I think it is a good thing building the bridge or the gap between the police and community.”

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