Program Provides Law Enforcement Exposure to Area Youth

As a child, Steve Kenyon was fascinated by policemen, slowly developing an interest in becoming one sworn to “protect and serve.”

Kenyon is now 15 and wants to go into the aviation field, but law enforcement is a close second.

“It’s my plan B,” said Kenyon, the son of a retired military member.

Kenyon and 17 other community youth have had the opportunity the past four weeks to explore their interests or just satisfy their curiosity in law enforcement through the Teen Police Program.

“The purpose of the Teen Police Program is to develop a partnership between law enforcement agencies and communities,” said Rico Williams, assistant operations sergeant, Provost Marshal Office.

The program is essentially one component of the PMO’s community outreach program, said Williams, designed to strengthen bonds of trust and cooperation with the people it serves.

Teens enrolled in the program, called cadets, are military identification card-holders who are 13-18 years of age. They are partnered with an officer and ride along in squad cars during the course of a typical day.

“They are there when officers make traffic stops, when they respond to calls, and when the officers attend training,” said Williams, noting that cadets are required to spend 18 hours riding along with officers.

Kenyon, who also went through the program in 2005, spent July 12 riding along with Spc. Nestor Alonso. Not much happened on that day, but Kenyon said he’s seen plenty during prior ride-alongs.

“I’ve seen the police give out many tickets for speeding, and there was a shoplifting incident at the PX,” he said.

That up-close-and-personal look at police work has provided Kenyon with enough unpredictability and excitement to spice up the summer.

“It’s been a good hands-on experience,” said Kenyon.

But it’s not just riding in squad cars.

Cadets have also visited correctional facilities, the Federal Bureau of Investigation Academy, Virginia State Forensic Lab, the FBI building in Richmond and Crater Criminal Justice Training Academy, where they were treated to a session of weapons simulation training using shoot/no shoot scenarios.

At the end of the six-week training program, cadets will have earned a certification in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and a certificate of achievement for their participation.

The certificates don’t certify the cadets as police officers, said Williams, but more importantly, it represents six weeks of exposure to the many facets of police work.

“It’s a worthwhile program that gives youth as well as their parents the ability to relate to and understand law enforcement and what law enforcement officers go through to keep our community safe,” he said.