Calling all cadets
By Leila Summers / The Daily News
Posted: Thursday, July 29, 2010 11:40 pm
KALAMA — Free time ended when police officer Mike Powell yelled a short command.
All 10 cadets attending the Kalama Junior Police Academy on Thursday quickly dropped their ping pong and air-hockey paddles, ran to him and formed a line.
Cadets stood at attention as Powell, a former Forks, Wash., police chief who is running the Kalama cadet program for the summer, strolled in front of the group with the authority of a drill sergeant.
He was greeted with a firm, "Sir, yes sir!" whenever he spoke to a cadet.
"What was your favorite part of yesterday's program," he asked one cadet in the line.
"When we saw a man getting Tasered!" the youngster said, referring to a demonstration at the Kalama Community Building Wednesday.
"Did you like that?" Powell asked.
"Did he like that?" Powell asked.
"No, sir!" the cadet quickly replied.
"At ease," Powell told the group, who let out a sigh of relief.
Powell said it's taken several weeks to groom cadets into responding quickly and listen carefully to his instructions. The idea is to keep the cadets alert and busy during their summer breaks, while giving a taste of what police academy is like for officers, Powell said.
The academy also is an opportunity for young people to build positive views of police officers and their work, he said.
"Also, it shows them that police officers are people. ... It's really been a good community outreach," he said.
This is the first junior police academy offered in Kalama. It runs Mondays through Thursday, from July 7 to Aug. 25, from 12:30 to 5 p.m. in the Kalama Community Building.
The program, which is paid for by a federal Safe Schools grant, is open to anyone in grades three through nine. It costs $50 per child. As many as 17 cadets have arrived in one day, but attendance can be sporadic due to summer activities and vacations, Powell said.
Cadets say they're enjoying the summer program because they're learning about police work and getting plenty of exercise, which sometimes includes games like dodgeball or soccer. Each day is a blend of physical training and learning — either from Powell and Kalama Police officer Jeff Skeie, or a guest speaker.
Guests have included a police sketch artist and a K-9 officer. Cowlitz County Sheriff's Deputy Brad Bauman on Thursday spoke about his work with Lower Columbia SWAT and let the cadets tour his SWAT vehicle. The group also is expecting visits from an FBI agent, bomb squad agent and an employee of the U.S. Marshall's Service.
Kalama resident Nick Beintker, 11, said he joined the police academy on a whim and has grown to really enjoy the program. He's thinking about becoming a police officer some day.
"Now I get to know what all the real police officers get to do," he said.
Nine-year-old Isaiah Velilla, of Kalama, is interested in becoming a police officer when he grows up. It's fun to learn about the police equipment and technology — especially speed radar guns, which are "kind of amazing," he said.
Isaiah said he didn't realize how much hard work and knowledge goes into becoming a police officer.
"I thought it would be easier," he said.