Exposing area youth to a little bit more about law enforcement than what they see on television was the objective of the first week-long Junior Police Academy hosted at the Riverbank Police Services in Riverbank.
The academy was opened to youth in the area that successfully completed sixth, seventh, and eighth grades with a C average or better with no past criminal contact with law enforcement. The students were in class this past week from 8 a.m. until noon Monday through Friday and had to wear a white shirt with pants that did not have any designs.
There was no cost for the students to attend and all participants had to apply to the Academy, with only 25 available openings.
The instructors were deputies from Riverbank Police Services and the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department that volunteered their time to teach the kids.
The Academy is the first of its kind to be held in Riverbank and is considered a pilot program.
“If there is enough interest we would like to see JPA’s (Junior Police Academy) put on in other areas that the Sheriff's Department serves,” stated Chief Erin Kiely. “Our intent is to educate our next generation of citizens, as well as capture the interest of those who will protect and serve in the years ahead.”
The instructors had a full class of 25 students, drawing boys and girls from communities including Riverbank, Oakdale, Modesto and beyond to participate in several activities throughout the week.
“What the academy will do for the youth is give them a very realistic view of why law enforcement is needed in our society, the importance of ethics in law enforcement, the importance of community and law enforcement working together fluidly as a team, knowledge of police procedures and criminal law, and knowledge of the multitude of jobs that exist in the criminal justice system,” explained Kiely.
On Monday they discussed the history of policing and being a police officer along with patrolling the streets and patrol hazards.
The youngsters were given a lesson on Tuesday of the language used by police officers and were given a list of codes, the phonetic alphabet, and call signs along with a dose of the importance of teamwork.
The SWAT team gave them a Specialty Unit Demo that included exploring the vehicle, wearing the gear, and observing the equipment. They also demonstrated their remote controlled Robo Tech that searched out the academy participants that were hiding.
This was one of the favorite things that students Madison Holbrook, Janna Franco, and Fernanda Lopez said they experienced during the week long academy.
During the week they also learned about crime scenes, evidence, search and seizure, interviewing witnesses, report writing, arrests, and law enforcement duties.
Several students commented about the report writing aspect in an officer’s job that they had no knowledge about which was instructed by Lieutenant Tori Hughes and Sgt. Hannula. They were very surprised that there was so much paperwork to complete for their mock investigation.
The bomb team visited the class on Thursday and shared the gear that they have to wear, different types of bombs and a tour of their unit vehicles, among other things. The students got a firsthand view of the weight of the bomb suit as they passed it around and they held the helmet as well.
“The instructor feedback has all been very positive, it’s a great group of kids, and the information/knowledge we are imparting is purposeful so there is a definite ‘sense of purpose’ that comes with that for the instructors,” added Kiely. “Our hope is that even if none of the cadets pursue careers in Law Enforcement, we have demystified what it is that law enforcement does, why and how, and helped them to become better informed citizens.
“We also hope that in the future we are that much more approachable for this group of 25 individuals.”
The academy ended with Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson as the guest speaker at the graduation ceremony, where students received certificates of completion.