BARNEGAT, NJ – Barnegat’s Junior Police Academy continued today with special guests visiting participants at the John T. Donahue School.  The day first began with scheduled drills.

Twenty-six students entering grades 5-7 took part in the week-long academy. The cadets all wore navy t-shirts, shorts and hats with the Barnegat Police insignia. T-shirts were personalized with their names.

“You’ll notice that some of the shirts have two hashtags on the sleeve,” pointed out Barnegat Police Lieutenant Jeffrey Ryan. “The five that have them returned from last year. They’re designated as squad leaders.”

Sign Up for E-News

Academy participants learn from professional law enforcement agencies throughout Ocean County. This includes receiving instruction from Barnegat Police Officer Robert Armstrong, who also teaches police recruits at the Ocean County Police Academy.

A thirteen-year veteran of the Barnegat Police Department, Officer Armstrong engaged the students with a series of physical training challenges. “Today we did group exercises, including pushups, sit-ups and squat thrusts,” said Armstrong.

Ocean County Sheriff’s Department K-9 Unit

After they completed physical training, the young cadets marched out to the schoolyard in an orderly fashion. They were met by Christine Casullo, a K-9 Officer with the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department.

Officer Casullo led the academy participants in an interactive discussion concerning the use of canines in law enforcement.  She referred to the dogs as working partners and demonstrated their usefulness.

First, Officer Casullo introduced Canine Bear, a German Shepherd. Bear is trained to look for explosive devices and other dangerous smells. Officer Casullo put some powder in an area and commanded Bear to find it.

“I talk to him in German,” said Casullo. “I don’t want him to be confused by commands others give him.”

Canine Bear immediately found the hidden substance and stayed by it. He did not move until Officer Casullo summonsed him for a reward for good work.

The Ocean County Sheriff’s Office also has a couple of bloodhounds that work as part of the agency. “Bloodhounds have floppy ears and lots of wrinkles,” shared Casullo. “Both help them when they’re looking for people.”

Officer Casullo instructed one of the students to leave her hat behind and physically hide several yards from where everyone else was gathered. She then introduced Fiona, a year-old bloodhound. It didn’t take long for Fiona to find the missing girl based on the scent from her hat.

A Future Police Officer in the Making?

This is the second year that twelve-year-old Addison Fillman decided to rejoin the academy. She finds the program to be a lot of fun and likes that it teaches her how to help people.

Fillman leads a seven-member squad of which she is the only girl. “There’s a lot of new people, who don’t know much,” said the cadet. “I try to help, but I sometimes have a hard time getting the boys to listen to me.”

Among the activities Fillman enjoyed as part of the Junior Police Academy was a trip to the fire training grounds in Waretown. “We had to search houses for people,” she said. “That was fun.”

The jury is still out on whether Fillman will pursue a career as a police officer. “I have some doubts because it is so dangerous,” admitted Fillman.  

Tomorrow, Addison Fillman joins the ranks to graduate from Barnegat’s Junior Police Academy. From the looks of all the smiling faces today, it was a good week for all.


Stephanie A. Faughnan is a local journalist and Director of Writefully Inspired, a professional writing and resume service. Feel free to contact her at