I don’t often put news stories here in the first person, but today I am. On Thursday, August 9, 2018, I had the pleasure of visiting the Westfield Police Cadets at the North East Regional Law Enforcement Educational Association Academy. This training academy took place from August 6-10, 2018. This is an annual training academy in which the Westfield Police Cadets joined almost 400 cadets from around the northeast for a week of boot camp style training.
Cadets arrive and on Monday morning they are met by drill instructors who yell, holler, and scream at them. They dump their bags out, they make them run and do pushups and situps and all sorts of other “boot camp” activities. As the week progresses, first time attendees of the academy will continue to complete a week of these basic training activities while returning cadets will break into smaller groups for advanced and diverse training.
I observed students in classrooms learning criminal and motor vehicle law, investigative procedures, crime scene processing, and fingerprinting. Cadets were trained in proper handcuffing techniques and other patrol procedures. There were cadets being trained in special response tactics doing building entries and high risk warrant service. The cadets even run a fully functioning mock police department on the campus of the University of Hartford for the entire week. (I was caught in a safety checkpoint while driving around campus in a golf cart.) But in addition to all this “scary” tactical training, the Academy goes much further and teaches ethics, responsibility, diversity, sympathy, understanding, conflict resolution, and a host of other qualities that help these young men and women grow into responsible, resilient adults who can deal with conflict in a rational and prudent way.
So far what I have outlined does not sound like any fun at all for teens ages 13 to 20. And yet despite this, everywhere I looked, as cadets were being run through the motions of the academy, everyone was smiling. Squads were singing songs. There were rivalries between platoons. Cadets were laughing, joking and having more fun that should be legal! In fact, it was hard to tell who was having more fun, the cadets or the staff running and teaching at the academy! For proof, just look at some of the video links below.
This program is simply amazing. We were told by academy directors that only about 12% of Cadets go on to a career in law enforcement. The other 88% use the education and training they receive as Cadets to benefit them in many other professions. I may be slightly biased being a part of our Cadet program, but I cannot stress enough what and amazing opportunity this is for teens.
If you would like more information on becoming a cadet, you can email Officer Chris Coach at email@example.com. In the mean time, enjoy the pictures and video links!