Students train as police cadets for one week

Program simulates lessons in academy

June 25, 1999|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

Quentin Henson, 14, had just been informed that the driver of the blue pickup truck in front of him was an armed robbery suspect. Henson cautiously stepped from the Maryland State Police car and approached the driver sitting in the truck.

"Bang!" the suspect yelled at Henson, while pointing a cap gun at him.

"Am I dead?" Henson asked.

"You're dead," the suspect replied.

Henson -- who joined 50 other high school students from Calvert and Charles county schools at the Maryland State Police Junior Police Academy this week -- was learning a basic lesson in police work: Make a suspected felon get out of the car with his hands up before approaching him, because the suspect might have a gun.

The weeklong camp, which wraps up tomorrow, is designed to give a police academy training experience to students interested in pursuing law enforcement careers.

"They get a really good look at what law enforcement is, instead of reading about it from a text book," said Pete Cevenini, instructional coordinator for Charles County public schools.

The program, in its second year, is funded by an $18,000 grant from the Southern Maryland Career Connections Partnership.

The program's selection process required applicants to write an essay explaining their desire for a law enforcement career. They also take a criminal justice curriculum in school that complements the camp's hands-on experience.

The camp is a condensed version of the six-month State Police Academy and is staffed by law enforcement officers and the schools' teachers.

The students spend the night on the grounds of state police headquarters in Pikesville and wake up at 6 a.m. each day for physical training, simulated law enforcement situations and criminal justice lessons until 10 p.m. They also take trips to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, the Division of Correction and a Baltimore Orioles game.

The traffic-stop simulation is designed to teach the students officer safety. Tfc. Barbara Wyckoff said students learn to react instinctively to each situation, despite how apprehensive they feel.

"Even though this is a controlled environment, these guys are really nervous," she said.

Most of the students made the same mistake as Henson.

"I was nervous," said Henson, who will be a sophomore at Calvert High School in the fall. "This job is never easy. You never know what's going to go on."

Tyechia Shorter, 15, also made mistakes approaching the bank robbery suspect.

"I learned that if it's a felon, I should stay back away from the car because I could get hurt," said Shorter, who will be a junior at La Plata High School in Charles County.

Anthony Rubolotta, 16, was one of the few students who handled the traffic stop situation correctly.

"I know what I'm doing. You've got to concentrate on what you're doing," said Rubolotta, who will be a junior at Maurice J. McDonough High School in Charles County. "But I do have a fear of being shot."

Capt. J. C. Montminy, of the Charles County Sheriff's Office, said the camp gives students and the law enforcement community a better understanding of each other and helps prepare a younger generation to be officers.

"This gives the law enforcement officers a chance to deal with kids on a personal level," he said. "That way, the kids can relate to someone they know. It's an extension of community policing."

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