Teens from Westbury and Elmont got an up-close-and-personal look at law enforcement careers Saturday at the Youth Police Academy, hosted by the Nassau County Police Department.
Nearly 50 students attended the daylong event at the Nassau County Police Academy in Massapequa Park that began at 9 a.m. and was set to finish at 5 p.m., said Deputy Commissioner Patrick Ryder.
“The objective behind it is to bring kids in from minority communities and offer them a day in the life of what a recruit goes through to become a police officer,” Ryder said in a phone interview.
Ryder began the event with an anecdote of a “hardworking” mother who immigrated to the United States in search of a better life, but instead, became involved in the drug trade.
“I wanted to let them know that life is all about the choices you make,” Ryder said. “We do this program to better the bond and communication between us and the community. We want kids to know there are options for them and there are choices in life.”
The youth academy began in 2007 and since then, about 900 students have participated, Ryder said. The police department uses asset forfeiture or police foundation money to hold the events three or four times a year, he said.
The students, ranging in age from about 13 to 16 and an equal mix of girls and boys, also learn about arrest procedures and are given lessons on self-defense, Ryder said. They also have a chance to go through an obstacle course as well as tour a police helicopter and meet with the SWAT team and K-9 units.
Ryder said a Civil Service test for police officer positions will be given in the coming months. Age requirements mandate a person be 17 years old to take the test and 21 years old to become a police officer, Ryder said.
Several students who have gone through the youth academy program have gone on to careers in law enforcement, Ryder said, including two young women who also were a part of the “explorer” program, which helps Nassau youth learn about law enforcement and its career opportunities. One recently became a police officer in Hempstead and the other an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer, Ryder said.