HACKENSACK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — They’re still in high school, but for two weeks they’re treated just like police cadets.

The Bergen County Youth Police Academy gives teens — super achievers and at-risk youths — a taste of law enforcement. There are plenty of push-ups, running and marching.

“It’s about mentoring, it’s about talking, it’s about socializing,” Lt. Jason Love with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office told WCBS 880’s Sean Adams.

Assistant Prosecutor Martin Delaney talks to them about drunken and distracted driving.

“We tell a lot of war stories, and in some ways, they’re designed to scare them,” Delaney said. “It’s meant to be sobering in all true meaning of the word.”

What was sobering for high school junior Molly Thomas was the active shooter scenario.

“We were in a movie theater, and I was the SWAT officer who had to go in and get everybody to the ground and everything,” she explained. “And they showed us, in like two seconds, you don’t see, you can’t see anything.

“Judging the police just off what you hear in the news, that opened my eyes because I hear my friends talking about it, and they’re like, ‘Oh, this is so messed up,'” Thomas added. “But now I can say to them, ‘But do you know what they’re doing? Have you been in their shoes?'”

Junior Joe Chiafarre agreed, saying the camp helps teens “understand where police are coming from. They have to make a split-second decision. It’s a lot to think about, you know? It’s not just what you see on the news and like ‘police officer kills unarmed person.’ There’s probably a story behind that. It’s not just one headline.”

Love hopes the campers learn that police work is difficult, but it’s a necessary public service. And it is rewarding, he said.

“They’re like, ‘Wow, in that specific instance, I would have made the wrong choice. And my life and my family’s life would have been gravely affected as well as the person who was involved in the incident,'” Love said. “And it’s kind of eye opening.”

Comments

Leave a Reply