This might be one of the best-kept secrets in South Florida: at a time when police officers have been getting lots of bad publicity nationwide, a public school dedicated to law enforcement is one of the most popular magnet programs in Miami-Dade County.
It’s called Law Enforcement Officers Memorial High School, located next-door to the Miami Police Department.
"It’s just a great opportunity for students to be exposed to areas where they would not normally be exposed,” explains principal David Ladd.
Students here choose one of three academies: law, forensics, or homeland security.
The forensics science class emphasizes all laboratory sciences, to prepare kids for any career involving lab techniques or for college work. Students may come into it thinking it’s like the crime lab in shows like “CSI: Miami,” but they soon learn how intricate and detailed real-world forensic science is.
"They leave with a soundness of the science, that science goes beyond the glitz and glamour on television, it’s a real respect that they’re gaining,” said Marcia Chisholm, forensics teacher.
The principal says that’s the point, that every core class feels current.
"Everything that we do here, we like to make it relevant, a real-world application," Ladd said.
Students in the law academy perform in mock trials as they learn the intricacies of the court system. The school has its own courtroom, which looks real in every detail.
The homeland security academy is similar to a real police academy. Students learn how to gather evidence, like fingerprints, and they learn the basics of defensive tactics.
There’s a 911 call center in which the kids see first-hand how difficult the job of police dispatcher can be.
Students graduate with an AA degree and certificates in their chosen disciplines, ready for college of to further their studies for law enforcement careers.
"Not only just law enforcement but also in the area of if they wanted to be a judge, if they wanted to be an attorney, if they wanted to be a crime scene investigator,” explained Tangela Ramos, one of the school’s administrators.
Open to any student in Miami-Dade County, Law Enforcement Officers Memorial High School is small, with fewer than 500 students who have all chosen to be there. That principal thinks that creates an atmosphere of collegiality through the interests the students share. Even though the school doesn’t have sports teams, there’s plenty of teamwork among the student body.