Kenan Mandawe is spending his summer learning about policing from inside the department.

The teen, who will be a senior at Gateway Academy when school resumes next month, is a participant in the City of Lawton’s summer intern program. The program was crafted at the request of the late Councilman Stanley Haywood to give its young participants actual work experience in city divisions, whether it was creating a public service announcement for stormwater management, testing water quality or maintaining city vehicles.

For Mandawe, the program was a way to fill the summer and earn spending money while learning the ropes of the divisions within Lawton Police Department. For Officer Tim Jenkins, the department’s public information officer, it was a chance to highlight the vital duties each area of the department fills.

While the number of teen participants was down this summer, city department heads still have worked to ensure their summer interns have the broadest possible exposure to the department they chose. That’s why Mandawe has spent alternating weeks learning every aspect of LPD, from the criminal investigation detectives and patrol officers who are the department’s highest profile employees, to equally crucial functions such as records and animal control.

And, while there are limits on what Mandawe can do because he is not a police officer, he still had to follow the same format that adults do when applying for jobs. That process was an important component when city administrators established the program, specifying that students must fill out applications, interview with potential bosses and pass drug screening tests. They are paid just as “real” city employees are and are expected to fulfill specific tasks.

The idea is providing a teen with a real work experience in a field they may be interested in pursuing after high school. The hope is that some of those teens will find their way back to city employment.

Mandawe said he likes the opportunity to get actual work experience under his belt, while having something to do over the summer. But, there’s another lure.

“It pays,” he said, with a smile.

Mandawe said he picked the police department because he knew there would be a variety of work.

He spent the first week with the traffic division and has moved every week since then, working in CID and animal control/city animal shelter, and sitting with dispatchers at the city’s emergency communications division. He learned the importance of the records division (“I did a lot of filing”). CID meant learning what police do, “how do you take pictures, what do you do at the crime scene?” For his CID work, he was able to learn investigative details at a mock crime scene set up in the training area at Great Plains Technology Center.

Mandawe said he has enjoyed the experience because he is working “all over the place,” meaning he doesn’t know exactly what he will be doing from day to day, beyond learning something new.

His favorites? CID, or the time he spent with Jenkins, who is the department’s point man for communicating with the media and the general public, not only about crime but about everything in which the department is involved.

Jenkins said that is why he wanted to participate in the intern program, explaining he knew it would give him and others an opportunity to showcase exactly what Lawton Police Department does, beyond controlling crime.

“There’s so much more to it,” Jenkins said, of divisions whose work weaves together to create the intricate network of policing.

The police department hasn’t participated in the intern program before because there were some details to work through. For example, while Mandawe can file records and learn about traffic control, he cannot ride along with officers when they are on their rounds.

Jenkins said he likes the idea that the program targets teens because it allows police to show exactly what they do, important in an era when officers aren’t always looked upon kindly. Jenkins calls it a behind the scenes view of the everyday life of policing, and he hopes Mandawe and future interns will share what they learn.

“It’s not quite what I expected,” Mandawe said, adding he has enjoyed the experience. “To see what officers do surprised me.”

Jenkins said the experience highlights the evolution of policing, how the department must change to meet the demands of today’s society.

“We can’t afford to get stagnant,” he said, adding that constant evolution is part of the job’s allure.

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