2010-08-18 / Front Page
Jr. police weeks all about drills, skills and dodge ball
Edison P.D. wrapping up five-week session for 400 township youths
Middle school is a critical time in a child’s development. That is why members of the Edison Police Department believe it is important to hold their annual Junior Police Academy, now in its 12th year. The academy, for kids going into sixth, seventh and eighth grades, allows participants to attend each of the three years.
“These students encounter a whole new atmosphere out of elementary school,” said Police Sgt. Robert Dudash, who has helped coordinate the academy the past four years. “We have to set them on the right path … this is essentially an extension of the fifth-grade DARE [Drug Abuse Resistance Education] program, and at the academy we continue to instill the information from DARE.”
“We also are fortunate to have a number of interns that assist us … they are a big help because without them, this would not work,” Dudash said.
The academy runs for five weeks during the summer, and this year involves about 400 township youngsters, each of whom graduates at the end of the session.
“Four of those weeks, we try not to limit the number of kids,” said Dudash, who noted that the week of Aug. 2-6 saw the biggest group, with 120 kids engaged in activities and demonstrations at Woodrow Wilson Middle School on Plainfield Avenue. For the fifth week, Dudash explained, 60 kids are selected from the prior four weeks.
During this session, which took place last week, the kids learn more advanced drill and ceremony skills such as saluting and standing at attention; the department’s K-9 unit demonstrates bite work and patrol tactics; members of the New Jersey Department of Homeland Security and the North Haledon and Piscataway police departments make presentations; and the state police bring a NorthStar helicopter.
The fifth week also includes field trips to the New Jersey State Police marine unit in Point Pleasant, where the kids are able to go out on the police boat and visit the state police training center, and to Newark Liberty International Airport. There, the kids are able to tour the Port Authority police building and go out on the tarmac and view the large airport fire truck. After that trip, the kids are brought to Liberty State Park.
Also during the fifth week, a mock triage is held where the kids get a chance to portray victims, and emergency personnel show how they do their job.
Each day of the academy, the kids also have time to play sports.
“The most popular sport seems to be dodge ball,” Dudash noted with a laugh.
During the five weeks, there are visits from members of the Edison First Aid Squad and the Edison Fire Department, which brings the Jaws of Life tools and shows the youngsters how the tools are used on a motor vehicle. There is also a visit from the New Jersey National Guard, and the kids get to drive a golf cart while wearing Fatal Vision goggles to simulate what it is like to operate a vehicle while impaired by alcohol. The National Guard also brings a rock climbing wall for the kids.
Also this year, NJ Transit taught participants about train and track safety, and U.S. postal inspectors showed how they investigate suspicious packages and mail.
Kersten Shannon, Jenn Burkhart and Corey Ditmars, all 13, have attended the police academy for the past three years. Each said they had a lot of fun.
“This has been my best experience,” Kersten said. “I get to be with my friends and do fun activities. … I especially like dodge ball.”
Corey said he liked the various demonstrations by the emergency personnel.
“There’s nothing that I did not like; I liked everything,” he said.