Members of the Smyrna Police Department with the help of other first responders offered career education and confidence-boosting skills to students in the Junior Police Academy this month.
After completing two weeks of training, the 14 cadets were honored at the graduation ceremony Friday at John Bassett Moore Intermediate School in Smyrna, but as part of their lessons in leadership and teamwork, the cadets themselves organized the ceremony.
“This shows you what they’re capable of,” said Smyrna Police Detective Michael Carrigan. “I’m proud of each and every one of these cadets. No matter what career they decide on, they’ve built a strong foundation, but if they decide to be police officers, I’d want them to be my partner.”
Carrigan and Smyrna Detective Jessica Weller led the junior academy for middle school and high school students.
“We do this so kids who are interested in law enforcement get a taste of what police officer’s job is like,” said Weller. “What I enjoy is the kids getting to know us better and building relationships with them.”
The program included:
(BULLET) physical fitness with exercises and an obstacle course,
(BULLET) a staged automobile crash scene with first aid instruction from emergency medical services personnel and fire company personnel,
(BULLET) lessons in the dangers of impaired driving with special goggles on a tricycle obstacle course,
(BULLET) forensics and crime scene investigation lessons such,
(BULLET) meeting the Delaware State Police mounted patrol and the Smyrna Police K-9 dog unit,
(BULLET) instruction at a shooting range,
(BULLET) a visit to the Delaware State Fire School where cadets learned how to use a fire extinguisher and went through the smoke house for training on how to navigate their way through a burning building.
Carrigan and Weller said they were proud of the progress and performance of all the cadets, but they selected an outstanding male cadet and an outstanding female cadet who best displayed the characteristics emphasized in the academy including responsibility, integrity and maturity. Those award recipients were Oliva Smith and Cameron Decker who thanked the officers for the honor.
What did Smith find out about being a police officer?
“I learned you have to pay attention to detail and it’s a lot of hard work, both physically and mentally,” she said.
Her favorite part of the academy training was the instruction at the state fire school.
“We showed a lot of teamwork when we went into the smoke house. I like how everyone does everything together,” Smith said.
Decker said he’s not sure he wants to be a police officer but he wanted to see what an officer’s job is like.
His favorite part of the training was the obstacle course “because it was challenging but fun.”
The most important lesson of the program, though, was teamwork.
“I just like that everyone does things as a team. No one gets left behind,” he said.
Cadet Daryl Henderson said the best part of the training was the visit to the shooting range, and he said the academy was a great experience.
“It helped me learn what a police officer does. I might want to do that when I’m older,” Henderson said.
Kevin Sarkissian said the most memorable part of the training was the smoke house at the state fire school.
“It was dark and hard to see. We learned how important it is when you’re in a burning building to keep your hand on the wall as you walk through so you don’t lose track of where you are,” he said.
He said he appreciated the guidance and encouragement from the police officers and other first responders during the training.
“They were nice and I learned a lot,” he said.
At the graduation ceremony, the cadets thanked Smyrna Police Chief Norman Wood, Carrigan, Weller and the other instructors.
“We want to thank Chief Wood for allowing us to have these opportunity and experiences,” said cadet Isabella Dunning. “We want to thank detectives Carrington and Weller for their time and effort.”
Cadet Destini Frazier described how the instructors gave them valuable training and advice. She said one of the top expectations was to complete tasks with purpose and enthusiasm. Cadets were also instructed not to use the phrase “I don’t know.”
Weller said, “As a police officer, you’re the one who needs to know the answers, so if they didn’t know the answer we taught them to say, ‘I’ll get you the answer’ or ‘It depends’ until they have the answer. It sounds like they listened very well.”
The instructors said they saw positive changes in the cadets during the two-week program.
“On first day, they’re not quite sure what’s going to happen,” said Carrigan. “Some of them aren’t talking very much. They’re tentative. Then day after day, they develop and mature. Their confidence grows and by the end of the program they’re all one big team, working as a group.”
Weller said, “That first day we work on a lot of team building to set the tone for the academy and help them get to know one another.”
While cadets have different parts of the program they like, Carrigan said his favorite part is “teaching kids to be proud of themselves for doing good work. We stressed that they should do their work with purpose and enthusiasm.”
Nancy Parker, the mother of cadet Logan Parker, said the academy was a valuable experience for her son.
“He loved it. He wants to be a K-9 cop. That’s been his dream,” she said. “This was a great program because he learns about an officer’s daily routine and the discipline it takes to become a police officer.”
DONATIONS NEEDED FOR PROGRAM
Carrigan and Weller said the Junior Police Academy is a free program, funded by donations. The cost of presenting the academy is between $2,000 and $2,500.
“We’re thankful to everyone who has contributed to this program,” said Weller. “It depends on donations.”
For information on making a contribution to help fund next year’s program, call the Smyrna Police Department at 653-9217.