Career Week at Molly Stark starts with law enforcement

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BENNINGTON — For Molly Stark Elementary School students, this week includes math, English — and learning about careers.

The week of April 8 marks the fifth Career Week at Molly Stark, where students learn about different career possibilities with presentations from people involved in those professions.

On Monday, it was Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette and his son, Ben Doucette, who talked to the students about their careers in law enforcement. Ben Doucette is a deputy in the Bennington County Sheriff's Department. Later this week, the school will host the Bennington Fire Department, a member of the Bennington airport, author Karen Gross, and Lawrence Toscano, a local composer/conductor.

"What do you guys think the police and the deputies really do?" Paul Doucette asked the group of about 40 third-graders gathered in the school's library.

"Chase down criminals," one student said.

"That's one thing we do," he replied.

"Tase people," one said. That happens occasionally, Doucette replied.

"The police do a lot of different things," he said. Police go to fire and rescue calls, respond to people who crash their cars and also help people work out issues, he said.

"Do we have to arrest everybody?" he asked the students, to a chorus of "no"s.

"Absolutely not," he said. "Sometimes it's easier, when people do something wrong, to talk to them, and we like to try to change behavior."

He told students there's a big fallacy about police work — "that all we do is eat doughnuts, write speeding tickets and arrest people," he said. "That's not all we do," he said. "We go to all sorts of different types of calls."

He also told the students about police officers assigned to Mount Anthony Union Middle School and Mount Anthony Union High School, and the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center, to make sure the school is safe and help people through issues.

"Just because the police cars are parked out front, doesn't mean something bad's happening, right?" he said.

Ben Doucette also explained to students how he followed his career path in law enforcement, from the law enforcement program at the CDC, to applying to the sheriff's department, and undergoing training and examination, including the police academy in 2017, an additional 80 hours of training, a polygraph test and an entrance exam.

Paul Doucette told the students about how his department has interns from the CDC, who write tickets, go on calls and work in conflict resolution.

"It's a lot of fun, and at the same time, you're learning things," he said. "And it helps you decide — because we've had some people go through the program and decide, 'hey, I'm not really sure I want to do this.'"

Paul Doucette told the students about the importance of education in law enforcement, including subjects like math.

"Sometimes we sit in the classroom with our teachers, even in second and third and fourth and fifth grade and we're like, 'Ugh, what am I doing this for? Why do I want to learn this? Why do I need to know fractions?'" he said. "You know what guys? I used to be the same way."

But, he said, law enforcement requires skill in English, math and science.

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Paul Doucette drew a diagram of a four-way intersection on a small whiteboard, describing a hypothetical crash of two cars going through the intersection.

"We're going to say this is a stop sign," he said. "We know that this car went through the stop sign. But that's not good enough."

The state also wants to know things like how fast the cars were traveling, including their impact speed. "That's why math is important," he said.

And once officers figure out that information, they have to write it down to tell the state and insurance companies what happened.

"So your math skills and your English skills have to be really good," he said.

The chief also showed the students police gear, including a baton, handcuffs and a ballistic vest.

"I do have a heart — this is going to sound hollow," he said, banging on the front of his shirt.

The vest acts as extra protection, even though it isn't bulletproof.

He also showed students a plate carrier, inviting a student to come up and try on the heavy black vest. It protects the heart and other major organs, like the lungs, liver and kidneys.

"The bottom line is — this will stop rifle rounds," he said. "This is just an extra piece of protection that police use to protect themselves, but we wear this so we can come into a dangerous situation, perhaps, to protect all of you."

Ben Doucette also showed the students his baton, holstered in his belt. Students gasped as he snapped it out.

"What you guys see on TV is not really realistic," said Paul Doucette. On TV, police beat people with these batons, but that's not how it works in real life, he said.

At the end of the presentation, students got to ask Paul and Ben Doucette their questions about law enforcement.

One boy asked how Paul Doucette what was the most number of calls he'd had in one day.

"We had 42 calls in one night," Paul Doucette replied, recalling an evening shift he worked about 15 years ago. The average at the Bennington Police Department has about 10,000 calls a year, he said.

Another student asked about the police dogs — two German shepherds, one named Gracie at BPD, and one named Millie at the sheriff's department.

"When the K-9 handler and the [dog] go to the police academy .. which one is tougher to train?" Paul Doucette asked the students. "The K-9, or the officer?" Students called out both answers.

"The officer," he replied. "The dogs are very, very, very smart, and they know what they're doing, but you have to train the officer to know and understand what the dogs are doing."

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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