ROCKINGHAM — Police are looking for 45 teenagers — to take part in this year’s Junior Police Academy.
The Rockingham Police Department is now accepting applications for the annual camp, which will be held at the end of the month.
Chief Billy Kelly, who has been involved with the program since it was started by former Chief Robert Voorhees about 10 years ago, said it’s all about getting to know the police officers.
“Most children never have any interactions with law enforcement,” he said, adding that the program is a way to “educate them on what we do, who we are.”
He said the personal connection lets students know “we’re just like them.”
“You never know,” he said, “we may get some future law enforcement officers out of the class.”
Although the chief said he wasn’t aware of any who have gone onto careers in the field, 16-year-old Richie Watts — a second-year cadet — told the Daily Journal last year that he was considering it.
Kelly said its encouraging to see a former cadet around town afterward who talks about having a good time.
“That’s great,” he said.
About 15 officers from the department contribute their time during the course of the week, usually just one day on their subject of expertise, whether it be SWAT, patrol or investigations.
Kelly said the weekly activities haven’t been finalized, although there are several scheduled events, including:
• learning patrol techniques;
• learning traffic investigations;
• running a trail and performing an article search with K-9 officers;
• learning case preparation;
• identifying drugs and paraphernalia;
• a demonstration from the airport raid team and lunch with the helicopter crew;
• visiting the 911 telecommunications center; and
• learning about house entry and the SWAT team.
He said there are also plans to visit the Richmond County Detention Center and the courthouse.
“Every year, we try to change it up,” he said.
The camp, held June 22-26, is open to students between the ages of 11-17 from all across Richmond County, with classes running from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cadets will receive certificates at National Night Out on Aug 4.
“We just put the applications out last week,” Kelly said, adding that about 20 have been submitted so far.
The department has hosted up to 50 cadets, but the chief said that was “a little too many” and has limited the space to 45.
“You want to keep it in a good environment of learning and interacting with all the kids,” he said.
New applicants will be selected first, with returning cadets filling the remaining slots on a space-available basis.
Kelly said the camp is completely free of charge, though some parents send money with their kids for the vending machines.
He added that the department reaches out to businesses in the city to donate food for the lunches. Last year, meals were provided by McDonald’s, Hardee’s, Domino’s Pizza and the Mexican restaurant Mi Casita.
For more information and to fill out the online application, visit the department’s website at www.gorockinghampd.com or call Detective Shawn Paxton at 910-895-2468.
Applications can also be delivered to the department at 311 E. Franklin St., Rockingham.
Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_Toler.