The Edison Police Department was the host to more than 70 sixth- through eighthgrade students from throughout the township in its weeklong program at Woodrow Wilson Middle School.
Officer Keith Jackson said the program provides insight into different aspects of law enforcement. In addition, it gives officers an opportunity to connect with kids on a different basis than usual, he said.
“It is nice to be able to interact with the students here rather than in the streets,” Jackson said. “It gives them a different perspective of law enforcement.”
“The police and fire departments prepare me for real-life situations,” she said. “The demonstrations and drills help the students comprehend what really goes on compared to what happens on TV.”
For example, the recent session had students watching as members of the Fire Department demonstrated how to extricate a trapped motorist from inside a vehicle. Firefighters used the “Jaws of Life,” along with other tools, to gain access to the car.
Captain Thomas Aszman, a longtime firefighter, said communication is important in both the fire and police departments. He said the Junior Police Academy is a great thing for the students, who are referred to as cadets.
“This program gives them an experience that not a lot of people get,” Aszman said. “It shows the kids what the fire and police departments go through on a daily basis.” Throughout the week, the students learn about motor vehicle stops, high-speed chases, search procedures, evidence and crime investigations, and more.
Jennifer Burkhart, 18, of Edison, said she was a cadet before becoming an instructor for the academy. She said the police and fire departments train the students to work together as a team, just like in a real academy.
“It is fun, because you get to know police officers as normal people who like to have fun, too,” Burkhart said. “It is important for the kids to be comfortable with them.”
Following the Fire Department’s “Jaws of Life” demonstration, the students each had their turn spraying one of the department’s high-powered hoses.
With assistance from firefighters, each cadet got a chance to spray a number of cones acting as targets, which were spread across the large field behind the middle school.
Frank Colavolpe, 12, who is attending for the first time this year, said he is enjoying the hands-on experience the academy offers.
“I really like the program so far,” Frank said. “I learned a lot and I thought being able to hold the hose was definitely cool, too.”
Jim Roach, a retired police officer, said the program makes a great impact on the children of Edison. He said the academy’s activities help build chemistry between students and officers.
“When they get a chance to interact and see what the departments do up close, it means a lot to them,” Roach said.
First-year instructor Frank Boateng, 19, said each day is different at the Edison Junior Police Academy. The program provides a variety of activities, with different drills, demonstrations, ceremonies and even a field trip. “Coming in, the kids seem a little uninterested,” Boateng said. “But as the program goes on, they quickly become more engaged and fascinated by what goes on in the life of an officer.”
Joe Sudnick, Edison BCI detective, closed out the morning with a presentation based on the Crime Scene Unit. As part of it, students got to pass around and examine items used in crime investigations to collect evidence.
The students participated in multiple investigative practices as Sudnick — who has been with the program for six or seven years — demonstrated different ways to trace fingerprints and DNA.
“I think it is good to show the kids we are here to protect them,” Sudnick said. “I love talking to them and answering their questions. They get smarter every year.”