The 8th annual 'Wellesley Police Youth Academy' was held from August 1 through August 5th, 2011. The academy, which is sponsored by the Wellesley Youth Commission and the Wellesley Police Department, offers 24 youths in grades six, seven, and eight, an opportunity to see the inner workings of the Wellesley Police Department. The youths, known as 'recruits' during the week of the academy, are not only shown what a police officer does, but are highly encouraged to go hands on in practical exercises. The recruits spend all of their time with Wellesley Police officers, and during the course of the week, encounter most of the officers on the department. The 24 recruits are divided into two squads, led by Wellesley Police sergeants.
The first day of the academy, recruits were given an in depth tour of the Wellesley Police Department. Everything from the emergency communications center, to the jail cells, to a police cruiser were explored. Recruits were also shown everything that a police officer wears on their duty belt. Recruits then went hands on, and tried on various parts of a police officer's uniform, from the tactical vest to the eight point hat and riot helmet. Recruits also tried out the various tools that a police officer uses in the field.
Recruits then stepped out on to Washington Street, where Officer Conor Ashe, Officer Ron Poirier, and Officer Janet Popovski demonstrated LIDAR and RADAR. Recruits then began performing some 'selective traffic enforcement' using the LIDAR and RADAR, much to the amusement of passing drivers.
The second day of the academy started out at the Massachusetts State Police Marine Unit, located in Boston Harbor, between Charlestown and the North End. After a quick safety brief, the recruits boarded State Police patrol boats 'Marine 42' and 'Marine 43' for a patrol of Boston Harbor. One of the highlights of the patrol was being able to orbit the end of Logan Airport runway 4R. It was quite an experience having a large jumbo jet come right overhead as it landed a few hundred yards away.
The Massachusetts State Police Marine Unit once again impressed the recruits with some high speed boating maneuvers on the way back to base. The Marine Unit has always extended itself to the Youth Academy, and remains one of the high points of the week. This is a fantastic opportunity for the recruits to see other police agencies and the different types of jobs that police officers do on a daily basis.
The recruits then walked over to the Boston Garden, where they received a special tour, thanks to Celtics star Ray Allen. Recruits were able to go out on to the floor of the Garden, and also travel to the top of the Garden, where the media is stationed during games. Although we were a little late getting back to the Wellesley Police station that day, everyone agreed it was a great field trip.
Wednesday was spent with the Wellesley Police Department's Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Recruits were able to view a crime in progress, and then try to pick out the correct suspect from a line up. Recruits also learned how to take their own fingerprints, and dust for latent fingerprints on objects. In the 'hands on' tradition of the Youth Academy, recruits dusted cups to discover these hidden prints. Recruits then made footwear castings of footprints (their own) in a large pile of dirt, the same way Wellesley Police detectives do at a crime scene.
During the afternoon, recruits roped off a crime scene, witnessed an arrest, and processed a vehicle for evidence. Mix 104.1 showed up with their ice cream truck, which was a pleasant surprise. Special thanks to Sue Brady from Mix 104.1 for providing the free ice cream. We ended the day learning how to use the police radio, and advanced handcuffing techniques. Recruits practiced these techniques on each other..
On Thursday, recruits traveled to Patriots Place in Foxborough for a day at Gillette Stadium. Recruits participated in some interactive games known as "Espionage" and "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." These games, which are very practical in nature, combine problem solving and creativity in order to solve mysteries. The afternoon was spent at the Patriots Museum.
On Friday, Officer Derrick Popovski demonstrated the tools that the MetroLEC Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team uses. Recruits were shown the armored vehicle that Metro SWAT employs during deployments, known as the 'Bear.' They were also allowed to explore just about every area of the Bear.
The MBTA Transit Police Bomb Squad then demonstrated how bomb sniffing dogs (Lady and Ben) are able to sniff out explosives. K9 Lady has been to the Wellesley Police Department Youth Academy many times, and is very popular, not only with the recruits, but also with the staff. Recruits were shown the bomb robot and the bomb suit that officers wear when they go to work. As always, recruits were then able to drive the bomb robot themselves, and put on the bomb suit.
The early afternoon was spent conducting car stops, using the radio, and making arrests, combining the skills the recruits had learned all week. It was a great way to close out our time together. Special thanks to our interns, Matt and Matt, who were 'locked up' on 24 different times during the exercise!
At 2:30, recruits, joined by their families, went through graduation ceremonies. The ceremony included a slide show depicting the events the recruits participated in, a certificate of graduation handed out by Deputy Chief of Police Brooks, a model Wellesley Police cruiser, Wellesley Police water bottle, and the footwear castings that the recruits made earlier in the week. Each recruit had their photo taken with the Deputy Chief of Police as well. Then it was time to say goodbye to the Wellesley Police Officers that they could now call their friends.
The Youth Academy is put together each year by Wellesley Police Officer Brian Spencer and Wellesley Youth Commission Director Maura Renzella under the direction of Wellesley Police Chief Cunningham. Director Renzella and Officer Spencer spend countless hours during the year planning every detail of the Youth Academy to ensure that it runs smoothly, and this year was no exception. The Youth Academy remains extremely popular, and registration for the 2012 academy will begin in January.