Students in training
By Susan L. Wagner/ Staff Writer
Thursday, July 6, 2006 - Updated: 11:12 AM EST
Last week, 14 Wayland Middle School students graduated from the town’s first-ever Junior Police Academy, a four-day program sponsored jointly by the Wayland Police and Park & Recreation departments.
The academy started on Tuesday morning (school had finished only the day before) with a video about judicial procedures and then an on-site visit to Framingham District Court, where the participants met a number of court officers, observed arraignments, and went into the cell area.
After returning to Wayland, the group got a guided tour of the station, including the cells and holding areas, got fingerprinted, and learned about the department’s breathalyzer.
In the afternoon, Detective Chris Cohen talked about working a crime scene and showed the group how to dust for fingerprints and footprints. Included in this part of the program were observations about the Auburndale Cooperative Bank robbery here in town a couple of years ago and an exhibit of the dye-marked bills that were recovered from that crime.
Wednesday morning started out with a little physical training under Officer Bill Bradford. Then back to the station for an orientation with dispatcher Alana Santillo about what happens when someone calls 911.
Wednesday afternoon was devoted to motor vehicle stops. The participants learned the difference between a routine stop and a felony stop. The latter, according to Youth Officer Jim Forti, who was in charge of the academy, is "when we know that the suspect is going to be armed and dangerous and we order them out of the car over the PA system."
The group went down to the Raytheon property on Route 20 with two cruisers and some unmarked cars and got to participate in staged motor vehicle stops. Officer Bill Smith had "armed" himself with a number of weapons, which were "discovered" by Officer Sean Gibbons. After Gibbons had secured the most obvious ones, Smith revealed more that he had hidden under his hat, in his socks, and on his wrists, including a gun, razor blades and a knife.
The kids also went out to Route 20 to conduct radar and LIDAR checks.
"But we didn’t stop anyone," Forti said, "because we didn’t want to put the participants at any risk."
Thursday was devoted to a visit from the Middlesex Country Sheriff’s Department, which brought metal detectors (both walk-through and handheld), a motorcycle, their mobile communications van, and a large police horse, Cappy. In addition, the participants got to play hide-and-seek with Archie the bloodhound, who is also a trained therapy dog, and to use an expandable baton to knock the stuffing out of an officer in a protective head-to-toe body suit.
On Friday, they learned about firearms safety.
Almost unanimously, the kids liked the motor vehicle stops best.
"We got to chase a robber, and then we got to be either a cop or a robber," said sixth-grader Vinny Pizzi. "I liked getting in the police car," echoed his cousin Arielle Antico, also a sixth-grader and one of the three girls in the class. "And I liked asking the guys we ’stopped’ for their license and registration."
Matt Goddard, another sixth-grader, said he enjoyed frisking the other kids.
"I decided to join the junior police academy because I wanted to learn more about what the police do," he saod.
Jake Greene, though, an eighth-grader, said he liked the court visit and going into the cells. "We were watching a woman who was asking for a restraining order, and it was pretty cool because she was sitting really close to us. I liked being in the middle of that. And we got to meet the judge, too."
Members of the Wayland Police Department were happy with the outcome of the academy.
"This was really a carry-off from the cop card program, which was done earlier this year," said Forti. "It’s all about getting kids - and their parents - to know officers in a different light. I think a lot of people have the perception that we’re those mean guys standing on the corner or lurking in the cruiser. But when they actually meet us, they learn that we’re just ordinary people, with families, and who like kids. So we do this as a way to start to establish good relationships.
"It’s also good for the officers themselves, many of whom don’t live in the community or have routine relationships with the kids like I do, to establish a rapport, an interaction, with this age group."
Stepping down from the sheriff’s communications van, Chief Robert Irving commented, likewise, that "we’re looking to continue our connections with the community. We did the cop cards for the younger kids and the regular citizens’ police academy for the adults. This was something for the in-between group. Obviously, there was an interest. The program filled up quickly, and I think it’s good for the officers as well."