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Special Section Archives The Altamont Enterprise, August 27, 2009

Cop-in-training learns respect, self-awareness

By Saranac Hale Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Going into her senior year of high school, Danielle Carl has already begun her career.

Sitting up straight with a deliberate cast of her eye, Carl doesn’t hesitate when she says she wants to join a police force.

Since the age of 7, she’s watched the television show Cops and knew that she wanted to have a job with ever-changing circumstances and excitement.

“It took me a long time to get used to it,” said her mother, Susan Ross.  She began heeding her daughter’s wishes when she was about 11, Ross said, and she spoke to Carol Lawlor, now Guilderland’s police chief, who told her about the Guilderland Police Explorer Post 155.  Carl signed up with the program, an extension of the Boy Scouts of America, at the earliest age she could — 14.

After three years in the program, Carl holds the rank of sergeant and relishes her week at the Explorer Police Academy every summer.  This year, she was chosen to be on a mock negotiating team that was presented with three scenarios — a woman on a bridge about to throw her ailing baby into a river, a man distraught over the loss of his job dousing himself in kerosene, and a man holding his wife hostage.

“It was crazy,” she said of the exercises.  Each situation, tenuous for its own reason, required her to balance a dozen factors.  “You’re aware of yourself,” she concluded.

In Post 155, Carl goes on ride-alongs with Guilderland Police officers and does community work, she said, like fingerprinting children and conducting traffic for the victims’ impact panels.

She’ll ask her mother to stop when they drive by accidents so that she can direct traffic, Ross said, and she points out what officers are doing wrong when she sees a traffic stop.

“She’s a great kid,” Ross said.  “She’s got her head in a good place.”

After she graduates from The Academy of the Holy Names next June, Carl plans to study journalism and peace studies in college — and it’s not without an eye on her goal.  She’ll need writing skills to complete reports, she said of majoring in journalism. Regarding the peace studies minor, she said, “Nowadays, it’s ‘grab your gun.’”  The course focuses on solving issues without violence, she said, adding something she’s learned as an explorer: “Once you escalate, you can’t calm it back down.  It’s totally unpredictable.”

Although she’s unsure of what type of police work she’ll go into, ideally, she’d like to be a mounted officer.  Carl has three horses — Frankie, Olivia, and Flirt, who break her serious tone for a moment when she smiles at choosing Frankie as her favorite, explaining that he takes a little more care than the others.

On Sept. 20, the post is holding a breakfast at Applebee’s to raise funds for a trip to Boston and utility belts, Carl said.

She’s also trying to raise awareness about Post 155, which is looking for new members.  “We want people that are passionate,” she said.

“It makes me really respectful to adults,” Carl said of what the program has taught her.

Her mother nodded in agreement, and added through laughter, “It makes her drive slower so she’s not pulled over by Guilderland cops.”

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