Police revamp teen law enforcement program

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 20, 2012

By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — Shayla Snowden is thinking about going into law enforcement. The 14-year-old is planning to join the Salisbury Police Cadet Program with the hopes she learns firsthand about her intended career.
Snowden recently learned about the cadet program when she saw other cadets in uniforms and asked about the program.
The cadet program, formerly the Salisbury Police Explorers, has been revamped. The new program is already under way with its first few cadets and a new project.
The Explorers program is a subsidiary of the Boy Scouts of America, but the police cadet program is through the Salisbury Police Department. The cadet program provides an opportunity for teens to learn about a career in law enforcement and about service leadership.
The program, spearheaded by Salisbury Police Officer Ann Cooper, was unveiled in March, and recruits have been added since that time.
“We have a new leader with some new energy and a new vision,” said Salisbury Police Chief Rory Collins.
The idea to make some changes came about a year ago with the kick-off event this spring. Returning cadets had a role in naming the new program and were along for the overhaul of the program.
Students can now join a year earlier at age 13. A member may also remain in the program until age 21, if they joined the program at 16 years old. There were some participants who’ve “aged out” of the program, Collins said.
Some others, who were in the Explorer program, have been hired as Salisbury Police officers.
Participants are required to attend four consecutive meetings, complete an application, pass an oral board and other prerequisites.
Cadets gain realistic experiences that teach life skills and learn about the criminal justice system. Cadets are also required to submit school progress reports to organizers.
A part of the changes Collins wanted to implement were the patches the cadets wore. The former Explorer patches, he said, looked a little too similar to police badges. The new patches are dark blue with the words cadet visible in large letters.
“I wanted to do that so there was never a question,” Collins said. “It’s their own identity and for safety.”
In the past, Explorers focused a lot on providing help during traffic incidents. Now the cadets will also work alongside Teen Court participants.
“They wanted to learn the basic elements of law,” Cooper said.
Teen Court is an alternative program to the court system, which allows first-time juvenile offenders between 12 and 17 years old to be tried by their peers for misdemeanor offenses. The roles of attorneys, jurors and other key court personnel are taken by student volunteers. Local attorneys volunteer to serve as Teen Court judges.
Cadets will also learn directly from law enforcement and other justice system officials how they do their job.
Cooper said once the core group of participants are under way, the opportunities for the cadets are just about limitless.
The first project for the new cadets is to make an anti-bullying video. The cadets, along with volunteers from Youth Services Bureau’s partner group Reclaiming Futures, came up with the video concept and wrote the script for the video. There is a twist to the video that the students decided to include, an alternate ending.
Youth Services Bureau is a Rowan County United Way member agency.
Daniel Sevigny is project director of Reclaiming Futures and program director of Restorative Justice, a program designed to reduce recidivism. Sevigny guided the group along with Cooper to create and execute a video concept.
Sevigny said the students realized sometimes bullying can end tragically or happily.
“I hope students who see it understand the consequences,” said Mikayla Cranford.
Daioosha Williams, 15, who is enrolled in the early college program, said she isn’t directly affected by bullying.
“It’s a bad epidemic, and I’m glad to be a part of this video,” Williams said.
The anti-bullying video will be made available to local schools.
There is still space for more cadets. Cadet meetings are held the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. For more information about the Salisbury Police Cadet Program, call 704-638-5333.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.