Ask a classroom full of children what they’d like to be when they grow up and it’s likely that “Police Officer” will be among the replies ringing out across the room. And it’s no wonder, as law enforcement is one of the professions that kids are drawn to the most. There is so much that goes into being a police officer, and the only way for children to get a real taste of what it’s like is to experience it first-hand. New Jersey has tons of incredible and in-depth junior police academy programs for kids and young adults this summer so they can experience what it’s really like to patrol the streets of the Garden State.

Here are five real-life lessons that kids will learn at a junior police academy:

Junior Police AcademyTo Be Respectful
One of the most important aspects of being a police officer is having respect for other people, no matter their relationship to you. At junior police academies, children are taught to work as a team and in doing so, to treat one another impartially at all times. Their instructors will also keep them in line as if they’re truly training to be police officers and respect is required first and foremost during these interactions.

To Be a Good Leader
Junior police academies “mirror as much of the academy” as possible, explains Patrolman Craig Hoover of the East Brunswick Police Department. This includes leadership training, such as acting as a squad leader for certain activities, so that trainees get a feel for being in charge of others and doing so fairly. In describing the biggest takeaways from the program Officer Hoover says, “predominantly teamwork, leadership and a sense of accomplishment.” These lessons are sure to give children the confidence to move forward knowing they can accomplish great things.

Junior Police AcademyTo Be Comfortable with Law Enforcement Officers
Another important lesson to be learned at junior police academy is that police officers are not to be feared. A lot of kids view law enforcement officials as intimidating but this isn’t the relationship that should exist. According to Officer Hoover, “The only other thing I can add is kids, especially teens, are leery of the police and this bridges that gap. You can say hi and approach a police officer without being in trouble. This is just the job we chose.”

To Be Physically Fit
The importance of physical fitness is also explored at junior police academies. The lessons that are taught through physical tasks, such as perseverance and discipline, are some of the basic tenors of joining the police force. The junior academies also take advantage of the opportunity to use physical tasks to promote mental growth. One example that Officer Hoover speaks of is a trip to an indoor rock-climbing facility. “We had kids that got over their fears of heights and climbing through encouragement from others,” Hoover said.

Junior Police Academy

To Be a Good Citizen
In the media-driven world that we live in today, kids often look up to the wrong types of people as their idols. It’s important to police academy leaders that children are taught to differentiate between false heroes and good role models. As Officer Hoover explains, “We talk about what it is to be a good citizen and role model, and steer away from rappers and athletes on steroids.” The police make every effort to ensure that your child leaves the program with the proper knowledge of what it means to be a good role model to those around him or her.


Hero (Top) Feature Image: ©  flickr/Phillip LeConte
Additional Images (in order) Courtesy:
Facebook/Berkeley Heights Police Youth Academy
Facebook/Junior Police Academy
Junior Police Academy of America

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