New criminal law program graduates first cadets

Published 9:45 am Friday, June 30, 2023

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By Angela Cutrer
Star Correspondent
Carter County Sheriff Department’s Lt. Mike Carlock met a great number of young people when he served for 17 years as a school resource officer, so he knows what makes kids tick. That’s why he’s now in a perfect spot, leading the Carter County Sheriff’s Office youth leadership initiative L.E.A.D. Academy, which finished up this week at the training center at 1500 Arney St. in Elizabethton.
“It’s a great program that came from an idea the sheriff had about developing a way to offer youth exposure to law enforcement activities,” Carlock said. “This is the inaugural year for this program, which runs much like an academy format for two weeks and provides different experiences law enforcement officers.” Those include training in defensive tactics, understanding operations and procedures, learning about crime scene investigations and wildlife protection, among others.

“Sheriff Mike Fraley had a long-term vision to provide education and direction to the community’s youth to support and foster the mindset of good citizenry and leadership,” the sheriff’s office’s website stated. “That is the driving force behind this Youth Criminal Justice L.E.A.D. Academy – law enforcement education and direction.”


L.E.A.D. Academy is a free program offered by the Carter County Sheriff’s Office and its partners. As such, there are no costs associated with participation, and transportation and meals was provided to those students.

A cohort of five young men and five young women – from rising sophomores to rising seniors – completed the program in this, its first year. “We were very blessed to have a very bright group,” Carlock said. “They were very engaged and involved in the activities.
“The program gives them an idea of what’s involved and what in school they need to study if they choose to become one of these professionals.”
Carlock said that two of the students have already begun their own networking with professionals in order to have mentors as they attend school to earn their own professional status for their future employment.
“This is not a camp,” Carlock warned. “It’s primarily a criminal justice real-world view on how things work, so it’s not for everyone. But for those who are interested, they will get experience from all types of criminal justice activities.”
These activities include visiting and learning at the district attorney’s office, the jail, the coroner’s office, the sheriff and police offices, the medical examiner’s office, the detention center, the clerks of courts, the historic Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, the Walter State Police Academy and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, to name a few.
The students also used a simulator to experience what real-live police deal with when it comes to split-second decisions on the streets, and experienced accident investigations, patrolling and suiting up like a SWAT officer.
Each day related to different types of criminal law activities, which included all sides of the coin. For example, this past Thursday, the cadets learned about SWAT tactical operations.
Friday featured the commencement for the program, where the cadets graduated.
“We plan to continue to do this for the years to come,” Carlock said. “It’s a good way to show young people how to face challenges, how to get help if they want to become a law enforcement officer and how to use critical assessments and cognitive thinking to make good decisions.
“We hope it also helps them gain a better appreciation for what law enforcement officers actually do.”

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