NEWINGTON - Sixteen teenagers spent their first week of summer vacation in intense training for careers in law enforcement.
For the second summer in a row, the Newington Police Department hosted a free Youth Academy at its Milk Lane training facility. Seventeen police officers and three interns guided the group through eight-hour shifts Monday to Friday. They went through interactive demonstrations, classroom instruction and physical agility testing.
Curriculum ran the gamut of a typical week on the job, from traffic stops and DUI arrests, to clearing a building and apprehending a suspect.
“Not only do these kids get a taste of what it’s like to be a police officer, but we are building stronger relationships with youth in our community,” Community Services Officer Jamie DeSimone said.
Participation was free to youths ages 15 to 18. The academy was sponsored for the second year in a row by Keeney Manufacturing.
An inside look in a police cruiser gave the group a chance to learn about the equipment an officer carries on a regular basis: a defibrillator, a steel-tipped hammer to break glass, a seatbelt cutter, etc. They discussed criminal law, use of force and detective work. On Thursday Newington Police Officer Arkadiusz Petlik and K9 Officer Argos demonstrated tracking techniques and narcotics identification.
The department’s ultimate reward for offering the program is for participants to return as adults and become Newington police officers.
For Michael Golowiejko, that is a real possibility. The 16-year-old Newington High School junior dreams of becoming an officer. He called the academy “an eye-opening experience.”
“I absolutely loved it,” Golowiejko said this week. I got to meet a variety of officers from a variety of different divisions. Hopefully I’ll be working as a police officer someday.”
He learned a lot about the job he didn’t know. Police used magnetic powder to take fingerprints, for example, and you need good math skills to work in the traffic division.
Aside from emergency response and law enforcement situations, there aren’t many other opportunities for officers to interact with local youths. Some Newington High School students developed a close relationship with School Resource Officer Tim Cunningham, who just retired. Beginning the new school year in the position will be Officer Dan Kaufmann.
“He’s a great selection and will be a great asset to the school,” DeSimone said.
The academy was an initiative started by Police Chief Stephen Clark, who hoped it would instill a sense of community pride and mutual respect in participants.
It will be at least three years before the department sees any return on their investment, as 21 is the minimum age to attend the Connecticut Police Academy, where new hires train.
Connecticut Insurance Exchange founder Ron Tregonig joined the group this week, capturing activities on camera. Participants received a digital photo album when they “graduated” Friday, courtesy of the company. Lenares Landscaping and Public Market donated Friday’s lunch for kids and their parents, who were invited to attend.
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.