- Associated Press - Saturday, March 11, 2017

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) - At a very young age, Noah Hahn knew he wanted to be a police officer.

“My dad was a probation parole officer for a while,” Hahn said. “And I always knew I wanted to be a cop since I was a little kid.”

The 19-year-old Lewis Central graduate is now a junior at the University of Nebraska at Omaha majoring in criminal justice. Hoping to follow a career in law enforcement, Hahn is participating in an internship program through the Pottawattamie County Sheriff's Office.

“I decided to intern because I wanted to get that firsthand experience and see what law enforcement was and not just from what you see on television shows like ‘Cops’ because it is a lot different,” Hahn said. “And I wanted to double check to make sure it was something I wanted to do.”

Chief Deputy John Reynolds said the department has been offering student internships since 2010.

“There’s not a lot of agencies doing these internships any longer, and I don’t know for what reason,” Reynolds said. “We try to maintain some availability for the students because we have a lot to offer.”

The department accepts one or two students during each four-month long internship program, The Daily Nonpareil (http://bit.ly/2lPlej0 ) reported. Students must be enrolled in college and pursuing a career in law enforcement.

“It’s a realistic view of what we actually do in the field,” Reynolds said. “A lot of kids look at TV and they see this unrealistic idea, like DNA in instantaneous time frames, and that doesn’t happen, so it gives the students a real view of what it is we do and why and how we do it.”

Students accepted into the program get to shape their internship experience, Reynolds said.

“I encourage the students to tell me what it is they’re trying to garner in their education,” he added. “I ask them to coordinate a schedule and where it is they want to focus their time.”

Students see firsthand how deputies deal with the public, including making arrests and taking people to jail. On the investigation side, students learn the back side of law enforcement, issuing search warrants and affidavits.

Students who apply to be an intern for the sheriff's office can pick what type of internship they want to participate in based on what field they’re most interested in pursuing after college.

Hahn picked road patrol because he wants to be a police officer after he graduates, he said. Students can choose fields like crime scene investigation, road patrol or criminal investigations.

“In CSI, they’re getting firsthand experience on the forensic side, and, for individuals that want to focus on road patrol, they get to see what being on the road is really like,” Reynolds said.

On Fridays and Saturdays, in the afternoon, Hahn rides with a road deputy, learning how to patrol the streets.

“There’s definitely times of excitement, but most of it is boring for me,” Hahn said. “Typically, deputies are doing reports or investigating, but it can be boring followed by seconds of excitement.”

Having started the unpaid internship in January, Hahn will complete the four-month program in April.

Outside of the internship, Hahn also serves as a volunteer at the Lewis Township Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department. In his sixth month, when he’s not at school, working or interning, Hahn helps respond to medical emergencies, fires and rescue calls.

“I feel like I want to serve my community,” Hahn said.

Slated to graduate in the spring of 2018, Hahn said he wants to continue to serve his community and pursue a career in law enforcement.

Once a student completes an internship and goes on to graduate, some of them end up returning to the sheriff's office to work in their respective careers.

“It’s not unusual for them to come back and test with our department,” Reynolds said. “We’re cultivating some talent for future employees.”

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Information from: The Daily Nonpareil, http://www.nonpareilonline.com

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