Teens learn crime fighting at State Police Youth Week

State Police and students participating in the Youth Academy Program (WTNH / Kevin Pflaumer)

MERIDEN, Conn (WTNH) – Two dozen new cadets are going through rigorous training at the State Police Training Academy, but they are still a long way away from serving in uniform. That’s because they are still in high school.

They are barely old enough to drive, but at the academy, they can get behind the wheel of a state police cruiser, It’s part of the experience of Youth Week at the state Police Academy, sponsored by the American Legion.

“It’s for individuals that are looking to possibly do law enforcement careers, maybe military,” explained State Police Academy Instructor Trooper First Class Christine Jeltema.

During Youth Week, they go through all the aspects of law enforcement, from driving technique to gathering evidence at a crime scene.

“Learning about forensics and seeing all the fingerprints, and the blood and working with crime scenes, it’s really cool,” said 16 year-old Michelle Aiello of Stratford.

Crime scene investigating is exactly what 16 year-old Nathaniel Jean of Norwich wants to do, and he knows it’s not like TV.

“It’s not a fast process,” Jean said. “It takes time and it takes a lot of determination in order to follow through and figure out what happened at a crime scene.”

Another lesson is about drunk driving. They use tiny little cars on a long stick attached to a steering wheel, which they have to steer through a set of model street, while wearing goggles that simulate what it’s like to try to focus after a few drinks. Not only are these students experiencing what it is like to look at life through literal beer goggles, they are also experiencing what it is actually like to be a cadet in the state police academy.

“These kids get woken up at 5:15 in the morning with reveille, just like we do with our state police recruits,” said TFC Jeltema.

With inspections to make sure they have made their beds just right. The hour can come as a shock to a lot of teenagers.

“Yeah, definitely, because I’m not used to waking up at 5:15 at all. Nope,” Aiello said. “Especially in the summertime.”

It is all part of the experience to find out if these high school kids have what it takes to be the future of law enforcement.

“It was rough,” said Jean. “It was fast. It was really fast paced, but everybody worked together and we pulled through.”

The 25 cadets will live like that for 5 days until a graduation ceremony at the academy on Saturday.

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