The Doña Ana County Sheriff's Department is wrapping up a weeklong law-enforcement training program with 40 Junior ROTC cadets from Gadsden High School.

The Junior Police Academy is a community-policing initiative, in which participants learn from lectures and activities about the roles of law enforcement officers, while taking part in team-building and problem-solving exercises.

Academy co-director Deputy Lance Shepan said that although academy graduates are not police officers, "they are our future community leaders," because they have a greater appreciation and respect for law enforcement and its role in society.

"We're trying to transform the traditional role of the police officer into one of mentor and friend, while encouraging our young people to be partners, not adversaries, in building safer schools and communities," Shepan said.

In addition to a rigorous physical-training regimen, cadets hear lectures about report writing, crime-scene investigations, courtroom testimony and other legal aspects of law enforcement. The sheriff's department also holds demonstrations by the special-response and K-9 teams. The 50+ hour program concludes Friday afternoon with the cadets conducting a mock crime-scene investigation. Shepan said the cadets will process an entire crime scene from start to finish.

"From the first deputy called to the scene to dusting and photography, the cadets will go through the whole nine yards," Shepan said.

For more information, call Grant A. Taylor of the county’s Public Information Office at (505) 647-7290. Anyone calling from outside the Las Cruces area may call toll-free at 1-877-827-7200 and request extension 7290.