Teens got a chance to learn about real police work and all the layers of law enforcement in a two week Wilmington Police Department Youth Academy. The academy helped give young teens a more positive outlook on the police.

As much as the two-week academy was a summer camp intended to keep teens busy and out of trouble on a handful of hot, summer days, and the not-so-secret secondary motivation for the program: Personalize the police, make them friends, and some of the bad feelings and preconceptions will dissipate

The academy kicked off July 10 when teenagers from the city and surrounding communities met for the first time at the William T. McLaughlin Public Safety Building downtown.

“Some of them, they were just going to try and avoid everybody and just get through it. We all were trying to avoid each other, but then we all got close,” said Aja Short, a 14-year-old who commuted to the camp from Smyrna. “The police officers got close with us, too.”

On their first day, the cadets spoke to judges about the beginning of the arrest and legal process. They got to conduct mock interviews with detectives playing the roles of criminal suspects, the first activity that really brought any of the cadets out of their shells.

There were demonstrations covering the proper way to apply handcuffs, write reports and work the radios. They learned about hostage negotiation, first aid and ethics. More than a few of the cadets already had learned the lesson police are supposed to see the big picture when it comes to community impact: There’s more to it than handcuffs and prison bars. Hands-on community relations creates a humanizing effect that strengthens relationships between citizens and law enforcement.

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