An eager-to-learn group of youngsters from around the area were exposed to the daily activities of law enforcement at Riverbank Police Services (RPS) for another year of the Junior Police Academy (JPA). The 15 students from Riverbank, Oakdale, Modesto, Waterford, and Turlock made their way each day to the station from 8 a.m. until noon to participate in the week long academy, July 23 through 27. The age range of the students was from sixth through eighth grades.
This was the fourth year that RPS has hosted the academy where they have a specific curriculum of the history of law enforcement, modern law enforcement practices, criminal justice system, criminal law, police communications, report writing, mock traffic stops, mock investigations, evidence collection, and visits from specialty units like K9, SWAT, Dive Team, and the Bomb Squad.
On Friday, they had a graduation ceremony in the Riverbank City Council Chambers where each student received a certificate. Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson was in attendance along with RPS Chief Erin Kiely, whom presented the students their certificates. Families were invited to the ceremony and applauded as each student received their certificate.
“We want to demystify everything we do. We want to expose them to all the different aspects of law enforcement; why we do what we do, how we do what we do, and also basically emphasize where it all comes from, the people,” stated Kiely at the graduation ceremony. “All aspects about law enforcement are about the community and the people we serve. So that involves a lot of different things and a lot of different responsibilities. So I encourage them to go home and share all that they have learned with you.”
The students learned about the different systems available like the Riverbank Police Services Facebook page, the Crime Mapping website, and the Megan’s Law website. The Megan’s Law website is available to the public and shows where sex offenders are located along with a picture, their name, date of birth and offense. The Crime Mapping System is also accessible to the public and shows where crimes were committed, what types of crimes, and when they occurred.
“All important things to know about and we encourage them to share this with friends and family,” added Kiely at the ceremony. “We try to push information out there. Again in the community it’s all about teamwork and working together. And the importance of being good citizens and letting us know when something is not right in the neighborhood.”
One of the academy graduates, Kayla Lemaster, 12, expressed that she really enjoyed the academy and learned so much each day. It was her idea to attend the academy and she currently has an interest to become a Game Warden due to the fact that she would be able to help both animals and people. Her mom Michelle added that she would come home throughout the week and share all the things she had learned like the penal codes and writing tickets. A stand out moment for her was when the bomb and dive teams stopped by the academy to show them the gear and how it works.
“She came home the whole week telling me non-stop about her day,” said Michelle. “It was awesome.”
For the past few years the syllabus has stayed the same and according to Kiely the formula works with the exception of a few small refinements. The first day the students learned about the history of policing, why police are necessary, amendments, people’s rights, and the rules that law enforcement must abide by. The second day they got into crime scenes, collecting evidence, chain of custody and all the things of that nature. They learned how to write reports which Kiely explained is just as important as learning how to be objective and not take things personally or be biased within the investigation or when writing the report.