A formerly dormant township program teaching grammar school students the responsibilities of being a police officer was revived in mid-July after a five-year hiatus.
The five-day North Bergen Police Junior Police Academy accepted more than 30 applicants, and educated and trained them in two separate groups during the weeks of July 15 to 19 and 22 to 26. The program was brought back by Chief Robert Dowd because the department wanted to reach out to the students considering a career in law enforcement.
“We want more interaction with the elementary school kids in the community outreach program,” said Deputy Chief Peter Fasilis. “These kids are sincerely interested in the Police Department.”
But just showing an interest verbally was not enough. Each student had to submit an application, write an essay, and get a letter of recommendation from a teacher.
Only after showing that commitment were they accepted into the academy.
The cadets were shocked into the real world their first day with a serious roll call/muster program and calisthenics, according to academy trainers. The paramilitary beginning was unexpected, but understood, according to two attendees.
“They let the Army people teach us how to train and how to march,” said Zhixiu Zheng, 12, of Robert Fulton School. “I had to endure a lot,” but in a good way, she said. “I was really, really sore, but today I feel a lot better.”
“The exercising, it gets you fit, and it’s good for your body, so I liked it,” said Melany Montero, 13, of Kennedy School.
“These kids are sincerely interested in the Police Department.” – Deputy Chief Peter Fasilis
After meeting their staff for the week, the cadets received a history of the North Bergen Police Department, a tour of the township police headquarters, and a primer on becoming a police officer.
The week continued with a class on firearms safety, a tour of the Emergency Services Unit truck, a live-fire demonstration at the municipal police range, and a class on defensive combat tactics.
After a midweek visit to the New Jersey State Police Museum & Learning Center, their training resumed on the serious track, with motorcycle and K-9 unit demonstrations. But the highlight of the week for many was the fingerprinting and crime scene evidence collection presentations. As part of their instruction, the students assisted in the processing of a mock crime scene.
“I learned that being a cop takes strong training and a lot of dedication,” said Matthew Vera, 12, a student at Horace Mann School.
“It showed me the feeling of being a cop, and how the system works,” said Nicholas Rivera, 13, of Kennedy School.
“It’s fun, because they make it fun,” said Charisma Garza, 12, of Franklin School.
Week One Cadets were: Squad 1: Gabriel Mendez, Richard Cruz, Genesis Yepez, Shaina Arias, and Andryana Henao; Squad 2: Shiddharath Patel, Cathryn Pace, Juan Ocampo, and Lenayah Torres; Squad 3: Victoria Rivero, Melanie Garcia, Samantha Vanegas, and Christopher Lopez; Squad 4: Ariel Casanella, Ismail Elasmai, Abraham Soto, and Susan Chen.
Week Two Cadets were: Squad 1: James Pazmino, Saif Ali Khan, Dianelis Castro, and Nicholas Rivera; Squad 2: Charisma Garza, Brian Guerrero, Jose Benitez Jr., and Joseph Perez; Squad 3: Luis Maya, Matthew Vera, Zhixiu Zheng, and Eric Lopez; Squad 4: Melany Montero, Crustuna Galarza, and Sebastian Verdud.
The Junior Police Academy training staff from the North Bergen Police Department included: Chief Dowd, Deputy Chief Fasilis, Capt. Patrick Irwin, Sgt. Enrique Marrero, Sgt. David Dowd, Sgt. Bronson Jusino, Det. Miguel Vento, Det. Steve Schubert, Det. Edgar Mendez, Det. Peter Insetta, Police Officer Tom Yfantis, and retired Police Officer Joe Sitty. Also assisting were Police Officer Evan Weinberg of the Port Authority Police Department and 1st Sgt. Charlie Keuscher and Specialist Angeline Stephens, both of the New Jersey National Guard.
The Junior Mentor Staff members were: Emmanuel Rodriguez, Isabella Rodriguez, Reann Bender, Nicole Morrow, Justin Marrero, and Ivan Marrero.
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