Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr., with intern graduate Casey...

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr., with intern graduate Casey Szarmach, 21, and her parents at the Yaphank Correctional Facility in Yaphank on Wednesday. Credit: James Carbone

Watching a drug-sniffing dog in a Suffolk County jailhouse training exercise was a high point of Lauren Holmes’ summer so far.

The 20-year-old from Miller Place was in a jovial mood as she looked back on the K-9' unit's search for contraband Wednesday — graduation day for Holmes and 21 others who finished the Suffolk County Sheriff Office’s 13-week internship program.

Among the lessons learned by watching: Dogs in the K-9 unit are trained to sit patiently for a treat after they turn up evidence in a search.

"Dogs can actually do that, their sense is crazy," Holmes said with amazement, "like they'll find it within a matter of seconds."

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol D. Toulon Jr. handed out the graduation certificates in an administrative section of the Yaphank Correctional Facility. The program gives college students a grand tour of possible careers in law enforcement, spending one full day each week learning different aspects of the profession firsthand.

“The goal is to really actually create a program for those that are looking to be involved in the criminal justice system to better understand the criminal justice system,” Toulon told Newsday. “It's a great opportunity for them to have good exposure and if they're pursuing a career in law enforcement, they can add this to their resume.”

The instruction included touring correctional facilities, education from the domestic violence bureau, participation in active threat scenarios, going on ride-alongs with deputy sheriffs and other law enforcement activities.

Toulon said that about two-thirds of former interns will go on to pursue careers in law enforcement, whether in a uniformed or civilian capacity.

Johnny Argueta, 19, of Yaphank, said he’s always admired police and after the sophomore finishes his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at St. Joseph’s University, he plans to go into law enforcement.

“Growing up in a tough neighborhood, such as North Bellport, where law enforcement is constantly around, I would always look up to them,” Argueta said. He said the internship solidified his desire to become a police officer or deputy sheriff. “It really helps me understand exactly what an officer or deputy sheriff actually does,” he said of the program.

Argueta said the marine bureau sparked his interest in a new aspect of law enforcement. “I've recently been around the water a lot, and I really got into boats,” he said. “That was one of my favorite things.”

Holmes, who finished her associate degree from Suffolk County Community College in criminal justice in the spring, said she plans to take a Civil Service exam in December and wants to become a deputy sheriff.

“It's very hard job and their main focus is just to keep you safe,” Holmes said. “That's all they really want.”

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