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Thats the ticket: Kids getting to know police
Maile Tibon pulls hard as she drags a fire hose during a race Friday morning at Lathrop-Manteca Fire Station 32 as part of the Lathrop Junior Police Academy. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

LATHROP – France Ruma isn’t quite ready to commit to a career in law enforcement.

He has his whole life – or at least his teenage years, he says – to figure out what it is he wants to do.

But that didn’t stop him from participating in the annual Lathrop Junior Police Academy in an attempt to broaden his horizons.

“I was curious when I heard about it and I thought that it might be fun to try something new,” said Ruma. “I like the fact that we’re learning new things every single day so I can’t really pick a favorite part. It’s all interesting.”

On Friday morning the two-dozen students participating in the second summer session offered by Lathrop Police Services were treated to a VIP tour of Lathrop-Manteca Fire District’s Station 32 – which still serves as the administrative headquarters – before getting the chance to test their own firefighting skills.

While they didn’t get to put any flames out, the participants did to do things like drag hoses, pull rescue sleds and move dummies in a mock obstacle course similar to the one that firefighters need to pass in order to become qualified.

Getting the chance to work with the kids in a hands-on environment, said Deputy Matt Lindemann of Lathrop Police Services, helps to bridge the gap between the youth of the community and the men and women sworn to protect it.

Overcoming the stigma that is commonly attached to police officers can be difficult, he said, especially when kids often equate police officers with something bad happening.

This program, he said, changes all of that and hopefully gets passed on to other young people.

“It really puts a human face on the police and shows the kids that we’re people too and we’re not all bad. It exposes them to what we do day-in and day-out, and that gives them a different perspective,” Lindemann said. “As a Deputy Sherriff you’re often dealing with people when they’re at their worst and that can be a difficult thing to overcome.

“But this shows that we’re just like them in a lot of respects.”

Basam Moustafa had so much fun when he participated last year that he decided to come back for another term. And while he isn’t sure that being a police officer is the road that he’s going to take, he definitely wants to come back and volunteer with the program when he gets older.

With an uncle that currently serves as a police officer in Egypt, Moustafa said that he’s always been somewhat interested in law enforcement and enjoys the activities that the program provides.

“It’s just something that’s really fun. I liked it and I wanted to do it again,” he said. “I really like it when we get to go to the Sherriff’s building and take a tour there. That’s really cool.”