August 1, 2013
Teens train for police work
2 week junior police academy teaching tactics to 18 students
A line of girls and boys practiced baton strikes Wednesday morning as they got a taste of what it takes to be a police officer on the third day of the Cortland Police Department’s junior academy.
“We teach them the value of character, integrity, honesty, bravery,” said Officer Rob Reyngoudt, who runs the camp that began in 2010 and is held at the former armory on Wheeler Avenue.
Eighteen students are attending the camp, which began Monday and ends Aug. 9.
Andrew Niver, 16, of McGraw, said he has learned a lot about what officers do on a daily basis and different career paths. A junior, he plans to attend college and join the military before becoming a police officer.
This year’s camp is the fourth he’s attended.
“I enjoy it,” Niver said. “It’s what I want to do when I get older.”
Officer Ben Locke was teaching the students on Wednesday how police officers control a forward or backward fall to defend themselves on the ground.
Officers try to land in a push-up position during a forward fall, and Locke pulled out Caroline Yonta, 15, and Ethan Stiles, 14, both of Homer High School, to face off against each other to see who could hold the position longest.
Early on Yonta tried to bribe Stiles with her lunch, but Stiles held on as other boys in the class told him not to lose to a girl. But in the end Yonta won, as Stiles gave out after two long minutes and eight seconds.
The class then moved on to practicing police baton strikes using rubber and foam batons and protective foam pads.
Cadets learn about many other aspects of law enforcement, too.
On Tuesday, city police Sgt. Dan Johnson taught the students interrogation techniques and about polygraph tests.
A narcotics officer will discuss how drug investigations start and how the community can help, while a representative from the District Attorney’s Office will lecture on how evidence is collected and prepared for court.
Next week, cadets will do physical training at the Central New York Police Academy in Syracuse before speaking with U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officers and attending computer-simulated firearms training at the Hancock Air National Guard.
The junior police academy differs from courses offered through the National Junior Police Academy, as it offers all-day training to high school students for two weeks out of the summer instead of hour-long classes once a week during the school year for middle school pupils, Reyngoudt said. The executive director of the national academy is scheduled to observe the camp Aug. 7 and 8 to see if it could be duplicated across the country.
The summer camp includes a physical training component unlike the middle school courses, Reyngoudt said.
“The advantage of that is it builds camaraderie within the class, teamwork,” he said. “That’s what I really wanted to focus on.”
The camp also provides a more hands-on experience, Reyngoudt said.
“The best part I think is the defensive tactics we do,” Niver said. “That’s always been really fun.”
Niver found he has grown as a result of the academy.
“It’s helped me not to fall into the groove that all the kids at school are,” Niver said, saying he avoids bullying and stands up for what is right. “It’s made me just a more mature and better person, really.”
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