80 Recruits Graduate Junior Police Academy
Junior Police Academy is New Milford Police Department's most sought after community-based program.
This June, 80 young recruits received certificates of completion from the New Milford Police Department marking the conclusion of the week-long Junior Police Academy. These graduates ended their week with more than just a certificate. They walked away with new knowledge and appreciation of what law enforcement is really like.
In addition to physical fitness activities, the academy is centered around building a positive relationship between the New Milford Police Department and the youth of the community. The program is run by Police Officer Keith Wester, who also serves as the School Resource Officer at David E. Owens Middle School. He and the other police officers who assist him encourage the students to take pride in themselves, teach them the importance of being a strong effective leader, stress the value of a strong team and the importance of each member's contribution to that team.
"The academy is run like a boot camp," Wester said. "We instill discipline as well as leadership and cooperation among the students."
"Most importantly," Wester said, "we focus on how teamwork is vital for achieving success."
"We teach the students that their teams are only as strong as their weakest member," he said.
"We want the students to learn the importance of making good choices," Wester said. "Being part of a team helps them to do this."
Wester said that the program strives to reinforce the core values that build good character and gives the students the tools to build within themselves discipline, confidence, motivation and respect for themselves, as well as for others.
The academy also serves as a building block in forming a solid community partnership between young citizens and members of the police force.
During the course of the week the group toured West Point Military Academy, visited the United States Coast Guard in Staten Island where stations were set up that recruits rotated through to experience performing different duties, toured the new MetLife football stadium, attended a New Jersey Jackals Baseball game at Montclair State University, toured the police firing range at the Bergen County Police Academy, and swam at Darlington Lake. The week culminated on Friday with the recruits engaged in playing sports games followed by an afternoon of swimming at the New Milford Swim Club.
Wester said that at the end of the week the students walked away with a better understanding of the functions of the New Milford Police Department and law enforcement, as well as a better understanding of their own strengths as leaders.
Chief of Police Frank Papapietro said that the Junior Police Academy is the most popular of the department's community-based programs, which include National Night Out and the D.A.R.E. program.
"Each year the Junior Police Academy grows," Papapietro said, pointing out that this year's class was the biggest the program had seen.
He commended Wester and the other officers responsible for putting the program together.
"Putting together the Junior Police Academy is an enormous undertaking," he said. "A lot of thought and planning goes into making the program a success, and they always do a great job."
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