SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – The South Orange Police Department will host its eighth annual Junior Police Academy the week of July 7.
The camp is open to South Orange and Maplewood students in grades five through seven and is designed to give kids with an interest in police work a firsthand view into the field.
“We’re looking to work on discipline, teamwork, responsibility, honesty,” said Officer Jared Adams, the camp’s coordinator. “We show them the basics of what police work is, because a lot of the kids that come in and sign up for the Junior Police Academy are interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement.”
The participants will complete various teambuilding exercises and classroom sessions that will give them an idea of the challenges and risks police officers face every day.
“We have a firearms training simulator; it’s like a video game,” Adams said. “We give them different scenarios that we would probably be faced in and let them make a decision on what they would do. We do a driving simulator, show them what it’s like to be in a high-risk situation responding to a call and have to watch out for different obstacles.”
Students will also hear from other state agencies so that they can see how law enforcement extends beyond the local level.
“We take them to the State Police marine barracks,” Adams said. “We have the county K-9 unit come in and show them how they train, how they find bombs, how they might find drugs. … We try to encompass, in a week’s time, a variety of different activities that we do here in law enforcement.”
All of the skills they learn will ultimately be put to the test at a mock crime scene.
“We either set up a crime scene here or we take them to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office crime scene unit and let them see what it’s like to fingerprint, how to identify clues in a crime, different things like that,” Adams said.
The week culminates with a field trip to a baseball game and a graduation ceremony open to family, according to Adams.
Space is limited to 24 students, but that figure is flexible depending on the level of interest the program receives, Adams said.
The reporter is a student participating in hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.