NUTLEY, NJ- Following directions, discipline and respect are the key traits needed by a first-responder or law enforcement official.  Those characteristics are being emphasized this week during the Nutley Junior Police Academy at Spring Garden School.
 
The free, week-long academy is open to Nutley residents in grades five through eight.  The eager students are learning first-hand about basic police functions and self-defense, while also participating in crime scene processing and investigation.
 
“This program is another example of good government at work,” said Commissioner Alphonse Petracco, Director of Public Safety.  “Our Nutley Police Department does an excellent job of making relationships with the youth of our township.”
 
 
The summer academy, which began in 2013, is spearheaded by Detective Sergeant Michael Padilla.  The program previously took place years ago under a different format.
 
“We have 70 kids this summer,” said Sergeant Padilla.  “This program, as we know it today, began five years ago and is meant to be both educational and fun.”
 
There is a tremendous amount of hard work and years of intense training that goes into becoming a police officer.
 
“We aren’t in the business of making mistakes,” said Padilla.  “You have to work together safely as a team in order to make the right decisions and figure things out.”

 
The kids worked on teambuilding skills while doing drills as part of a unit to complete tasks and learn about police equipment.
 
“Teamwork is one of the things the kids are most proud, and so are we,” Padilla added.  “As a police officer, you have to know what you are going to do before you even make a move.”
 
Isabelle, age 12 and about to enter eighth grade at John H. Walker Middle School, is enjoying her first time at the academy, saying, “I love the activities so far, especially the ones where we had to put on the (safety) goggles and walk in a straight line.”
 
Kids saw the extreme difficulty in trying to complete simple tasks while wearing Fatal Vision Goggles.  The goggles are a training tool for simulating the effects of alcohol and drug intoxication.
 
Serious training indeed, especially in today’s heat and humidity.  But participants were instructed on the importance of hydration and carrying essentials in their gear bag.
 
Fellow eighth grader, Mariah, 12, said, “This is my second summer here at the academy and I came back because the activities are really fun, and I like doing the crime scene investigation.”
 
Fire Department members will be here tomorrow for Fire Day which includes live demonstrations.  Department of Corrections Project Pride, Essex County Sheriff K9 and Bomb Squad, and Nutley`s Emergency Services Unit will also be on hand.
 
On Thursday, the group heads out on a field trip to FunPlex in East Hanover.  Friday brings a graduation ceremony that parents can attend as the kids put on a demonstration to show what they learned during the week.
 
Nutley High School students interested in a law enforcement career are serving as squad leaders.  Most attended the academy as participants in years past.  This allows them to be in a leadership position and earn community service hours while learning police functions from the instructing officers.
 
Five campers are children of police officers.  Some aspire to be high school squad leaders - then one day, police officers themselves.
 
This is a great program for the community to see what it takes to become a law enforcement official and that they should not be taken for granted.