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Teen gets glimpse at future law enforcement career

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | September 3, 2023 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — When she was younger, Clarity Partridge saw a future of helping animals.

But it didn't take long for her to turn her focus to helping people, specifically through helping them as a state trooper.

"I started to want to work with animals and to help animals," the soon-to-be Sandpoint High School sophomore said. "I think as I started to, especially in the eighth grade, read the news and/or listen to podcasts, I heard about all of the school shootings, you know, all those things. I think my brain was finally like, I want to help, but I want to help people."

Partridge got a first-hand, in-depth look at what a career in law enforcement might look like when she took part in the ISP Leadership Education & Development Academy, held in late June.

Partridge had heard about the camp during a visit to the Coeur d'Alene Police Department and was intrigued. She’d wanted to work in law enforcement and was excited that the camp would give her an up-close look at what the field entails.

Her parents, Michelle Sebern and Steve Partridge, are supportive of her interest in the field. They want her, she said, to be happy and to be doing something she loves to do.

"They've definitely played a huge role in this," she said. "They've always been very supportive."

The camp was everything she hoped for and more. If anything, Partridge said, it reinforced what she already knew: her future lies in law enforcement.

"I love to help people, I love to serve people, and I would love to do it for a job," Partridge said. "I'd love to get the drugs off the street. And I would love to help people in need."

Being a trooper would allow her to do all of that, she said.

The camp taught her to be a leader, to speak up for yourself, and to know what’s right and what’s wrong. There was information about nutrition and physical fitness, with the camp’s cadets going on daily runs and lifting weights. Partridge said participants learned how to shoot firearms and how K-9 officers work with their human partners. They got to drive police cars and learn how to safely pull someone over.

"It was pretty fun," Partridge said. "I learned a lot. You definitely get a sneak peek at the job."

While they aren't as tough as they might be at a police academy, Partridge said instructors made it clear the camp, while fun, would be tough.

"They just want to show us that this is what you're going to be getting into," she added.

Rather than discouraging her, Partridge said the camp made her even more determined to go into law enforcement.

"It made me want it more. It sounds weird, I know," she said. "The more they talked about it all, even the bad things, it was like every job is going to have bad things, but this job has the look of, like, I just helped somebody that could have just died."

Each day, the campers would get up and meet at the flagpole at 5 a.m. A quick workout, including a three-mile run, would follow, helping the youth increase their stamina and improve fitness, Partridge said.

Beyond the focus on health, which helps law enforcement perform at their best in the field, Partridge said they learned information specific to what troopers need to know to keep their communities safe. From crash detection to drug detection and investigation to driving a police car — including how to conduct a pit maneuver — classes covered every aspect of what life might be like if the youth opted to go into law enforcement. They learned what SWAT team members are expected to learn and practiced shooting targets with paintball guns; they even learned about various firearms and how to safely handle and shoot them.

Partridge said she was surprised by how engaging the classes were. She expected to learn a lot but thought the classes would be more theory and talking about what was involved. Instead, she said the ISP instructors shared stories about actual cases and put them to work with hands-on activities designed to put them in troopers' shoes.

"I thought I would just be kind of sitting in a classroom, you know," Partridge said. "But they always had little activities for us or just told us all these interesting stories. Even though we had to wake up at 5 in the morning, nobody was falling asleep."

Partridge said the best part of the camp, for her, was hearing the different troopers' stories. Some were funny, some poignant, and others impactful.

In one, the trooper told the students how he was sitting by the side of the road and had a feeling about the car. He pulled out and followed the car to see if there was anything to that hunch. It wasn't long before the driver was seen making a traffic violation.

After the trooper pulled the car over and was talking to the couple, he glanced into the back seat and saw a young child and a blanket with what they thought might be another child. After making it clear that he needed to see both children to ensure their health and safety, the second youth was found in critical condition, with signs of being malnourished and signs of possible abuse. The stop ended up saving both of the youngsters' lives, the officer told the academy's 18 or so students.

"I think that story definitely really made me want to get the drugs off the street," Partridge said. "One of the troops said he was so glad to help this one boy, but I can't imagine how many kids are going through the same experience of parents who might be on drugs. Because when you're on drugs, you don't know what's going on."

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(Photo courtesy IDAHO STATE POLICE)

ISP Leadership Education & Development Academy participants get a look at the secret signature room at the Idaho Capitol.

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(Photo courtesy IDAHO STATE POLICE)

ISP Leadership Education & Development Academy participants pose for a group photo.

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(Photo courtesy IDAHO STATE POLICE)

ISP Leadership Education & Development Academy participants and instructors pose for a photo at the Capitol Dome.

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(Photo courtesy IDAHO STATE POLICE)

ISP Leadership Education & Development Academy participants and instructors pose for a group photo shared to the department's Facebook page.