LaGRANGE, Ga. — Not so many years ago, Deputy Matt Mayfield was among these eager faces, a participant himself in a similar law enforcement youth camp. But these days, he’s one of the leaders, inspiring the future generation.
“Absolutely. It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do,” says Deputy Mayfield. “If you ask my parents, they’ll tell you. They knew from day one that being a cop is what I wanted to do.”
Deputy Mayfield is among those in the Troup County Sheriff’s Office volunteering some of his time to teach during the Sheriff’s Academy for Youth.
“I think that’s very vital and very important for the youth today to understand what law enforcement does and that we are here for them, that we are here to help them,” says Deputy Mayfield.
As a canine officer, Deputy Mayfield works with his partner, Jack. They are able to sniff out all sorts of contraband. They demonstrated how Jack can find hidden bullets by smelling gun powder, even when it’s well-hidden. The children enjoyed the showmanship.
“I love my dog. I love what I do. This is a passion that I have, and it’s something that I hope I can continue to do for the next many, many, years of my career,” says Deputy Mayfield.
Whether it’s a demonstration involving Jack or just an up close and personal look at a deputy’s car, some of these young people become so captivated they make the Sheriff’s Academy for Youth a yearly tradition.
“There’s some that when they’re 12, they could be coming to this thing for four years in a row. And I’ll have some next week, it will be their fourth year coming,” says Sergeant Stewart Smith.
And just perhaps the extra time they take up with these kids will inspire one of these future leaders to emerge as the next Sergeant Smith or Deputy Mayfield.
CHILDREN SEE OFFICERS AS FRIENDS, REAL PEOPLE
Young people often shape their ideas about police officers and their jobs by what they see on TV and in movies. But, as many of us know, that is not the reality.
The Troup County Sheriff’s Academy for Youth provides the opportunity for the children to see deputies as helpful resources to the community—and as friends.
Sergeant Stewart Smith says the Sheriff’s Office looks forward to the yearly interaction with the children.
“It’s a team here at the Sheriff’s Office. The guys and girls are so gracious to volunteer their time to come out and talk with the kids because they understand the importance of the community and working with these kids,” says Sergeant Smith. “And again, teaching them the jobs that we do. It’s not everything that you see on the news or on TV. We are real people, too. And they see that the week that they are with us.”