KINGMAN - For seven summers the Kingman Police Department's Junior Academy has exposed more than 400 of the city's children to law enforcement with the goal that at least some of them will pursue a career in the field.
On Thursday, 30 more cadets graduated from the four-week program at Lee Williams High School. It was the second session held this summer.
Sgt. Lyman Watson told parents and others in attendance that he didn't necessarily want to spend his summers with students when Chief Robert DeVries established the junior academy program seven years ago.
He spent the academic year with them as a school resource officer, after all, but he does not regret his decision.
"This is one of the greatest things I've done in law enforcement," said Watson. "I think you've all noticed (the difference) in your children from when they started four weeks ago and where they are today."
Watson singled out Officer Stacey Mayo for praise, saying she did the lion's share of organizing the four-week course.
Cadets learned about a wide variety of law enforcement work, including crime scene investigations, accident scenes, the courts, jails and prison - and even how to handcuff someone.
They also had fun playing paintball, going swimming, taking field trips to the mountains and "racing" PT Cruisers.
Cadets learned about the K9 Corps and heard from Mohave County Sheriff's detectives as well as County Attorney Matt Smith and Assistant City Attorney Duncan Rose, who concocted a murder case for the cadets to use in a mock trial.
"This is the best example of community policing I've ever seen," said Watson.
Taco Bell franchisee Crystal Burge kept her status as the academy's largest single donor, giving another $1,000 to the organization.
Watson said support from the community, particularly Burge, play a large role in the program's success.
Watson said the academies are challenging for the cadets, who must perform physical training. Watson said the number of pushups each cadet could do "improved dramatically" between weeks one and four.
Deputy Police Chief Rusty Cooper, speaking on behalf of DeVries, said the cadets probably lost things over the month, such as weight, fear and self-doubt, and gained other things like confidence and self-discipline.
Cooper said the "crux" of the academy is to inspire cadets to go into the Police Explorer program, then to a paid cadet position and finally to a sworn officer position with the KPD.
"You represent the police department, the city, and yourselves," said Cooper, echoing comments DeVries made to cadets earlier during training.
Cooper also reminded cadets they are "a person of significance. You're going to have a lot of choices and a lot of temptation ... and you're expected to say no when everybody else is saying yes."
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