Township Police Youth Academy Graduates Sixth Class

2016 Teen Police Academy - 8

Members of the 2016 Franklin Township Police Youth Academy at their graduation ceremony July 15 in Franklin Middle School.

The Class of 2016 of the Franklin Township Police Youth Academy graduated July 15 in a ceremony held at Franklin Middle School.

The nearly three dozen students spent the previous five days drilling, exercising and receiving instruction on a variety of topics, just as they would if they were in the real police academy.

Included in the week’s instruction were visits from the New Jersey State Police, various federal agencies and – new this year – officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said FTPD Det. Kevin Fitzharris, the academy’s co-coordinator.

Homeland security representatives “talked to the kids on how important it is to if you see something say something, in regard to everything that going on,” he said.

This was the sixth year the township police department has run the academy, Fitzharris said.

“We’ve got everybody’s attention now,” he said. “Everybody’s willing to make the program better than it was. I love doing this every year.”

“The instructors have the same passion as I do, as well as my co-coordinator (Officer) Dawn Flanders, and we would hope to continue this and keep it gong forever, or as long as we can,” Fitzharris said.

Flanders is also the FTPD’s liaison to the school district.

“Hopefully they took something from the program that they can take with them for the rest of their lives,” Fitzharris said.

This was Matthew Kelley’s first year as a police cadet. The experience made him think he might want to be a police officer when he grows up, he said.

“It was awesome,” he said of the experience.

Carissa La Selva recorded her fourth year in the program.

“Every year, I see more about what it’s really like in the life a police officer,” she said. “It touhes my heart to see everything that they go through. Every day I can come home and tell my mom something new, and that’s what makes me happy.”

Addressing the graduates, Police Chief Lawrence Roberts said the program will hopefully help them make lifelong friends, both with other cadets and the police officers.

“You never know, as these kids grow older and they stay in contact with all the instructors here, you never know when someone’s going to hit a hard time in life and they need that person to talk to when they can’t go to mom and dad,” he said. “And I want them to know that they can always go to the police officers, and the police officers are always here for them.”

“Every one of you conducted yourselves in a very professional manner with a lot of integrity, and your parents should be very proud of you,” Roberts said.

Mayor Philip Kramer told the cadets that they are now “ambassadors for the police force.”

“You need to go and let people know tha this police force cares about its community and that this is a model police force,” he said.

“Thank all of you for your hard work,” he said to the students. Turing to their parents in the audience, he said, “Thank all of you for having the dedication for sending them to us.”

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