Students in the 2019 Shelby Township youth law enforcement academy make an arrest while investigating a mock crime.

Students in the 2019 Shelby Township youth law enforcement academy make an arrest while investigating a mock crime.

Photo provided by Mark Benedettini


Shelby Township police to host second youth police academy

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published May 26, 2021

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP — The Shelby Township Police Department is inviting local fifth and sixth graders to join the department for its second youth law enforcement academy.

The department hosted the program for the first time in 2019, but due to COVID-19, the program was not held last year.

The program will take place on the township municipal grounds at the senior center from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays July 19-30.

The program is made possible with the help of grants and donations from businesses to help cover the cost of the program.

Shelby Township Police Capt. Jason Schmittler said department members are excited to be able to have the program again and possibly gain some more interest in policing as a career.

“We are excited to host this outstanding program for a second time. The youth academy will give the students insight into public safety and a more realistic view of an officer’s responsibilities and essential duties. Hopefully, we can recruit a few,” he said via email.

The program teaches students teamwork, leadership and communication skills, and it gives them an introduction to the skills and equipment used by first responders on a daily basis.

This program was part of Police Chief Robert Shelide’s vision to bring the community together and show children what police officers do in their daily jobs. Sgt. Mark Benedettini was given the opportunity to make it happen this year.

“I’m happy to be able to bring this program back for the second year. The first year was a huge success, and we received rave reviews from the students who attended the program. Unfortunately, we had to cancel last year’s academy due to COVID-19, but we are definitely excited about bringing it back this year,” Benedettini said via email.

During the academy, students work toward solving a mock crime and train in a structure that is similar to a real police academy. Training includes physical training, hands-on projects and classroom presentations.

“Kids will benefit by being able to learn teamwork, leadership, communication skills, and we will give them an inside look at the skills and equipment used by our first responders on a daily basis,” Benedettini said.

Some big topics covered in the academy include laws of arrest, search and seizure, defensive tactics, crime scene investigation, report writing, team building, tactical response, K-9 officers, traffic stops, first aid and CPR.

After the academy, the children will be certified in CPR and first aid.

A total of 28 children were able to participate in the program the first year, with some extra donated funding, and they were split into groups of seven. Each child had a role in the group: the officer in charge, the interviewer, the photographer, the evidence logger, the fingerprinter, the shoe-caster and the DNA collector.

There were four stations that were set up like actual crime scenes, where the children worked together by completing their roles.

The four stations the first year included collecting a bottle that a suspect dropped, dusting and swabbing the bottle for evidence, casting footprints, and investigating evidence from a mock stolen vehicle.

The mock crime for the children to figure out was a bank robbery. In the crime, the robber had thrown away a bottle before robbing the bank; ran out the back of the building, leaving footprints; and then ran past a parked car, injuring an elbow. The robber then stole a vehicle, which got stuck, and then fled, leaving behind a mask and blood — ketchup — on the vehicle.

“We are able to offer this program through several of our officers, many from different specialized units, who offer their time to instruct at the youth academy over the 10-day period,” Benedettini said.    

The department hopes to be able to have the program again next year.

“There is a lack of interest in law enforcement, and by introducing this program to kids in our community at a young age, we hope that it will give them an interest to pursue a career in law enforcement, specifically in Shelby Township, which in my opinion is the best department in the state to work for. We have top-notch equipment, ongoing training, and morale in the department is great.  Hopefully, the kids who attend the youth academy will remember this when they get a little older and want to work here,” he said.

The program is free for the children, and the department hopes that the program helps to build a stronger community, teaches children valuable skills and leads to some future officers.

He said that the changes that will be required due to COVID are unknown at this time.

“It will depend on the state mandates in July that will determine what restrictions we have in place. However, we are planning to hold this year’s program outdoors, at the Shelby Township Senior Center Pavilion. We don’t have a set number of people we will allow in the program at this time; that will be determined after June 1, once all applications are received and we see what the COVID restrictions are at that point in time. We will then determine how many kids we will have in the academy. I do anticipate it will be limited in number due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

This program is offered to residents of Shelby Township who are in the fifth or sixth grade at the time of application. Prospective applicants can go to shelbytownshippolice.org to fill out an application. Each prospective student will submit the application, along with a letter of recommendation from one of their teachers.

Applications are due June 1. Lunch will not be provided during the classes; students should pack a lunch.    

For more information on the program, call (586) 731-2121, ext. 358, or email mbenedettini@shelbytwp.org.

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