MAHWAH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The Mahwah Junior Police Academy is bringing police and the community closer together.
At this summer camp, youngsters march and stand at attention, use handcuffs and learn all about police work.
“They do homicide investigation, arson investigation, motor vehicle, we throw in social media so they learn a little bit about social media and the dangers of social media,” Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli said.
But the program has a greater purpose.
“We hope they have a better understanding of police work, but more importantly, it’s the rapport that they develop with the police officers through the police academy,” Batelli said. “They see the more human side of our police officers and that’s very important in a community like ours.”
Mayor Bill Laforet said students and officers form strong bonds.
“These students walk out of here with officers’ cell phone [numbers] and a great relationship,” Laforet said. “They wave at these officers, they become friends, it breaks down the barriers and the fears that you’re reading about.”
Officer David Sinisi gives out his number.
“We’re always just a phone call away,” Sinisi said. “If they have some sort of issue or problem and they need to talk to us, we’re there for them.”
Jacob Blaustein, 19, was a skeptical junior cadet years ago and now he returns year after year as an instructor.
“I thought the police were scary because they’d pull you over, they’d give my mom a ticket,” Blaustein said. “I see it in a completely new way. I think the police are the greatest thing, they’re here to help us.”