The Evesham Township Police Department graduated its first-ever Junior Police Academy cadets on July 26.
The idea for the academy began a year ago based on the success of the Citizens Police Academy, according to police Lt. Thomas Reinholt, one of the academy instructors.
Approximately two months ago, the department notified residents of the availability of the “unheard of” free junior program.
“We were hopeful for success without expectations,” Reinholt said.
According to Reinholt, 35 children applied and 20 were accepted.
Children ages 10–14 from a variety of schools in the township, excluding Cherokee High School, were accepted. The academy began July 22, and cadets graduated on July 26.
“Through the parks and rec department, we were able to come under their liability, helping make it free of charge,” Reinholt said.
Each cadet was provided with free lunches, reusable water bottles and uniforms to wear each day through a number of sponsors. Cadets were challenged with a mini basic training camp.
“The idea was to give them an idea of what police officers go through,” Reinholt said. “We wanted this to be a more hands-on learning experience for them.”
Fourteen Evesham Township officers, Evesham Fire-Rescue and Burlington County central staff contributed time to teaching cadets about SWAT, emergency response, DUI stops, arresting suspects, fingerprinting, active shooter and fire arms safety.
The experience also provided cadets a social aspect.
“It was a great experience,” said Officer Tom Campbell, the drill instructor for the week. “It was a feeling out period, where they felt comfortable enough to open up to us and us to them. I think they were receptive.”
The class wasn’t rewarding just for the cadets, but for the instructors as well.
“The kids were very willing to learn,” said Christine Schmidt, an academy instructor. “It was most rewarding to see the accomplishments they made from beginning to end. I could see a lot of them felt achievement.”
Campbell is confident the process will open the cadets to being the department’s eyes and ears.
“When we ask them who was interested in a career in law enforcement and 100 percent of their hands go up, it was great to see,” Campbell said. “We were able to help instill an interest in law enforcement.”
The department has considered a winter class, however planning the inaugural class was a task. According to Reinholt, organizers and instructors had to take into consideration sports, camps and other activities. Additionally, officers were teaching the academy on top of their official duties. The idea, however, has not been completely ruled out. Reinholt is optimistic about next year’s class.
“We had a large response this year. I expect it to be ten-fold for next year,” he said. “Friends and family of kids saw our updates daily on our Facebook page with photos, which helps with interest, too.”
Evesham Township residents 18 and older and business owners will have their chance to have a similar experience with the return of the Citizens Police Academy. The department is currently accepting applications.
Both programs serve to maintain a good connection with residents of all ages.
“It was a great opportunity to reach out to the younger community,” Schmidt said. “Hopefully, we were able to get them to go along a good path and teach them what it is to be a good citizen. They can take what they’ve learned and take it with them in their future endeavors.”
To learn more about the upcoming academy, visit www.eveshampd.org.
For a photo page, look for The Sun in mailboxes on Aug. 7.